Back in the Day
This morning Chef Mark Biesack and I were reminiscing about the past year and he pointed out a few things that have happened along the way to us having the Golden Fork Award winning team. Everything from Nesco lids flying down the highway, to having Lily hang out with us in the morning while Mark, our first employee with a culinary background and culinary education, helped to finish up with prep for the day.
Mark literally walked on the truck one day while we were parked at Salon Aura and started cooking. He had been by the truck several times, dropped off his resume and expressed an interest in working with us. Jay and I still thought we had to do everything on our own and were hesitant to bring on an employee. Mark however, has literally been the one person who has guided us along the way and has continually done all he can to make the Kangaroostaurant better ~ from all perspectives. In the first few months he worked with us, Mark was off during the summer and was able to help us get some processes in place that made work a little easier and the Kangaroostaurant a little more efficient. As many of you know, Chef Mark’s daughter Lily is the inspiration behind the label and name of the delicious chocolate chip cookies we serve on the truck. Mark attended Johnson & Wales University – College of Culinary Arts in Rhode Island and graduated from the Fox Valley Technical College’s (FVTC) Culinary Arts program in 2008. Mark has worked in food service in and around the Fox Valley since then. He remains involved with the Culinary Arts program at the FVTC and is continually improving and learning his skill as he follows his life long passion (his first job in the industry was when he was 12 and worked for a catering company).
Make Way for Chef Lindsey
Chef Mark suggested an aquaintance Lindsey O’Brien. He said that Lindsey had a knack for cooking food and was a hard worker with experience in catering. We thought, why not – Mark had not led us astray so far…and well, he was dead on with Lindsey. Chef Lindsey prepares all of the arancini we have on the truck as well as the dressings, sauces, Rooscicles and more.
Lindsey has been a student of the FVTC and Lindsey’s family owned a restaurant while growing up and in spite of seeing the amount of work, time and commitment needed to run a successful restaurant, she too found that she had a passion for preparing food and feeding people and a desire to become a professional chef. Not only is Chef Lindsey a master in the kitchen, she is an incredible ORGANIZER. We credit her with solving many of our small spaces woes over the past year. When things were over the top disorganized, Lindsey would come in and put everything in it’s place, making it possible for us to function. Lindsey and her husband John live in Appleton and are expecting a baby in February.
Thank You Chef Mason
Prior to working at the Kangaroostaurant, Chef Mason Grode would come to the truck weekly to try some of the specials. We had talked a few times and learned that he was a student at FVTC as well as worked at a local restaurant with a reputation for it’s commitment to local sourcing as well as the quality of professionals we had come across who were FVTC students and graduates, so we paid attention. We had all sorts of theories about Mason, but as it turns out, he just likes good food. On a Sunday afternoon last summer, Mason stopped by with some ice cream for us to try. Not just ordinary ice cream, it was Chocolate Covered Radish ice cream.
Now, I’ve been known to eat a little ice cream, but I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of eating it with radishes in …. chocolate covered or not. But, we tried it and loved the combination. Mason’s second food offering for us was in the form of eclairs – filled with Stout Cream. A few weeks after the second treat from Mason, Jay and I were in a dilly of a pickle…we were headed to Oshkosh for the first time and neither Mark or Lindsey were available to work. We knew there was no way we would be able to do it on our own that day. I was in the front of the truck, just about to cancel our first visit and asking the food truck gods what to do, when Mason appeared at the window. I asked if he was busy on Wednesday, he said no and thus his first day on the truck was scheduled. He showed up, excited and ready to go. You may remember our first visit to Oshkosh was about as busy a day as we have ever had. It was a warm February day and folks lined up for 2 solid hours for K’Roo lunch. Mason was invaluable, never flustered (in spite of me burning him at least twice) and smiling the whole time. It was a short time later that Jay and I decided it was time to hire someone full time and began searching for the right person. Mason showed up at just the right time and the rest is history. I could go on for a long time about Chef Mason, his talent, his creativity, his passion and his sense of humor have inspired Jay and I daily. Mason has worked 50+ hours a week for us EVERY week since last March. We worried at first about having enough hours available for him, but now, wonder how he can take time off and whether the truck can roll without him. Chef is not the only hat wears here, he often referees for us as Jay and I work through concerns we have with each other – in other words, he keeps the peace when Jay and I are about to choke each other (17 hours a day on the truck with your spouse has a way of making that seem not such a bad idea). Chef Mason has taught me so much about cooking on the truck – he is a whiz. He has made several changes to how we do things and all have proved to be invaluable and major improvements! How many of you remember our soggy White Fries from the early K’Roo days? That was the first thing Chef Mason pushed us to change. I still remember when he showed us how much better the fries would be if we par fried them -. I was so reluctant - but, well, when I realized how much better the end result was, there was no denying the change had to be made. And so it goes, we now have crispy, delicious and probably the best fries in town. Chef Mason is working on creating an oppurtunity to study in France. He is learning French and practicing his art constantly (be sure to follow his ice cream business on Facebook. Local Churned Ice Cream is where you can see all of the savory and fantastic flavors he creates) We continually hope for that oppurtunity for Mason. He is invaluable and irreplaceable at the K’Roo, but we know he has potential beyond what we have to offer and hope for him to have the chance to continue to learn and grow and challenge himself. But, in the meantime, we will continue to learn from him and watch as he navigates local foods and connects with the community through his love of food.
Wedding for 150 People – WE NEED HELP
Kaytlin Snively came to us by way of a catering event. She and Mason go to school together. Mason enlisted her help for an event we catered last summer. She and co- hort Anthony, rocked the event. They lined up servers, they carried trays up and down 3 flights of stairs, they set up, they cleaned up they basically ran the show.
We knew after that event, that we would someday like to have them on board full time. Both worked other jobs and were unable to make that commitment. As Anthony’s obligations pulled him elsewhere, Kaytlin’s help with the K’Roo also became limited by a busy schedule with her employer. You see, Kaytlin is a baker, a pastry chef and skilled and gifted cake decorator. She was given the oppurtunity to work for a local cake business and she was busy over the summer helping to decorate LOTS of wedding cakes. As summer wound down, it worked out that she was able to come and work for us again. First an event or two, and eventually, we were able to offer her a permanent part time position working around her school schedule. Kaytlin and Mason will be working together to develop a pastry and bakery menu for events catered by the Kangaroostaurant. I am not a baker, but Mason and Kaytlin are so we are asking them to use their talent and creativity to develop a menu that is not only delicious, but creative, and unique -. Kaytlin will also be interning with us beginning in November. We again, feel that we are fortunate to have someone with the talent and passion that it takes to be successful ~ Kaytlin has both! Kaytlin’s dream is to one day own a pastry shop ~ and we know, she will do it. She has drive unlike anyone I’ve met.
Latest and Greatest
While we are still getting to know our newest additions, we are grateful to have some additional new folks on board as we continue to grow.
Veronica Nothnagel can be found doing prep at the kitchen, working on the truck and serving food at catering events. She has willingness to help out as well as knowledge with local food system. As well as working as a swim coach at the Appleton YMCA, Veronica spends many hours a week volunteering at Riverview Gardens. Veronica is a graduate of NYU and holds a MS in Fashion History. Our goal is to have Veronica eventually take on more responsibility in our catering functions. We are so glad to have her easy going spirit on board and look forward to her continuing to help us bring delicious food to folks around the Fox Valley. (You should know – one of the first tasks for Veronica at the K’Roo was to turn 50# of tomatoes into sauce so that we can all enjoy a bit of summer freshness this winter.)
Michelle Madden is married to a former co-worker of Jay’s and came to us after we posted a few positions on Facebook. She works with us part time during the week but has many other hats she wears while not here – she works almost as much as Jay and I! We are grateful for Michelle’s cheerful disposition and willingness to do whatever we ask of her -. Something you may like to know about Michelle is that she spent several years in the Navy but has a strong fear and dislike for boats…HuH.
Nick Farah comes to us via our friend Pip. Nick too has numerous years of kitchen experience -. Nick works full time in Brillion but, helps us out whenever he can. He is eager to help whenever and wherever possible. Since starting here a month ago, Nick has cleaned the walk in cooler twice and walk in freezer once. He is a hard worker and always trying to find ways to help Jay and I and make things a little nicer for everyone around here. Nick has two lovely daughters. When the oldest was introduced to us, she was sure to tell us that she is also a singer and dancer. We will certainly not forget that!
And finally, but certainly not leastly, Miquel Aquirre. Jay and I approached Miquel at a recent visit to a local restaurant about the possibility of having him work at the K’Roo. He is skilled at working on a line and food prep and will be Mason’s right hand man on Wednesdays as I do my best to stay off the truck to focus on operational aspects at the K’Roo.
Don’t Cross the Line
They say that a good boss will not get too close to their employees on a personal level. I am telling you, for us, that’s just not the case. All of our “employees” are much more than that. They have become like extended family. When they are struggling, we feel for them. They work closely with us and our family, they get to see what goes on behind the scenes – we trust them and value their opinions. We ask them to speak up – to tell us when they see something that they think we could do better or differently to help provide a better product or improve on our customer service. We ask that folks not take themselves too serious and be ready to make mistakes. Jay and I make them ALL THE TIME…There is a lot of laughing and mischief that takes place at the K’Roo. I think Chef Mark is still looking for the tall straw that was missing from his morning coffee that first summer.
Jay and I feel strongly, that we do have the best Culinary Team in the Valley. That doesn’t mean we aren’t aware of and friends with many other hard working and passionate culinary professionals in the area. From Executive Chef to Dishwashers anyone who works in foodservice can attest to the long hours, often hectic and sometimes chaotic work environments – but each day, they go back. Without the passion and dedication of MANY folks, eating out would be mind numbing and dull…full of microwaved dinners and soup from a bag. We can say that without a question, working in a restaurant is one of the hardest things Jay and I have done and we admire those folks who have committed their lives to working in the food business. Our hats are off to you – with great respect.
Not all Unicorns and Rainbows
I want to acknowledge the fact that while Jay and I are pretty nice people, we may not be the easiest people to work for. We are often disorganized and missing that ingredient needed to make a dish (like cream for ice cream – sorry Mason). We frequently use the wrong word to describe what we are doing or mispell things on the menu. Our kitchen lingo is limited and our kitchen ettiquette is even worse. We often guess at what to do next. But our team, have always come through for us and make Jay and I look good. Grateful and indebted are two words that come to mind, but they don’t express the deep fondness and appreciation we have for them. Thank you all…from the bottom of our ♥s.
Jay, Kelly, Emma and Loudon