Prime Steaks Are Still HOT!
By Alain Piraux, Director of Food and Beverage, The Peabody Little Rock
Co-authored by André Poirot, Executive Chef, The Peabody Little Rock
In response to sophisticated guest tastes and their corresponding high expectations, USDA Prime steaks have been served in all Capriccio Grill Restaurants in all Peabody Hotels for many years. In each hotel, not only do hotel guests tell us how important quality meats are but the local community agrees as evidenced by a great mix of in-house capture rates and frequent patronage from locals. Guest feedback scores and commentary confirm the importance of this trend as guests continue to patronize restaurants where Prime steaks are served over those that do not focus as much on their meat quality.
After an extensive market research and customers focus group meetings years ago, the decision was made to change the concept of the restaurant. We all agreed that a Steakhouse would be the best fit for downtown Little Rock. But not just a Steakhouse, but the best of the best you can find in Arkansas.
First thing we had to do was to find the finest beef available in the market. You could be the best Chef in the world and you will not be able to make an average product taste great. So Chef Andre Poirot went on the road to benchmark all well-known and successful steakhouses in the country after which he contacted the top 10 US meat vendors and after several tastings of choice, Angus, prime and dry-aged meat cuts and quality tasting, the Chef and his team narrowed to two vendors for the final cut.
Prime beef and dry-aged beef were selected from one vendor for the highest quality meat with just enough but not too much fat, in order to provide the best taste and flavors during the cooking process. Even though the vendor had been selected, the executive chef still tries every piece of meat that he receives weekly to approve taste and quality before he gives it to the restaurant chef to prepare for the guests.
The Steakhouse concept turned out to be the right one as evidenced by increasing business volumes year over year and by the numerous accolades from the hotel guests, locals and the media. Even in a down economy, guests are still looking for a great quality steak usually accompanied by a great bottle of wine. We should probably make sure to define what we mean when we say “a great bottle of wine.” A great bottle of wine is the wine that you like, so it does not really matter if you are told that you should have a full bodied red wine with intense red berry flavors with your Porterhouse. Yes, it does pair better with red meat, but if you like an oaky, buttery chardonnay, just go for it and enjoy!
Whatever the cost is, whether you are celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, finalizing a business deal or for any other reason, you have to do it right. So why would you want to pay $25 for a mediocre steak when you can get one of the best cuts in the United States starting just around $30?
The 20 ounce Bone-in Rib Eye Prime Steak is our signature steak and amazingly, most of our customers eat the entire steak. They even clean up the bone as the meat around the bone is the most flavorful. The most popular cut on the menu is the 8 ounce Prime beef tenderloin as it represents just over 18% of all steak sales.
The cooking process is very important, some guests like it grilled, some broiled and some roasted. My personal preference is rare, grilled on mesquite wood, warm in the middle. Many steakhouse restaurants will tell you this is not feasible as rare steaks will typically have a cold center. This is because most restaurants take the steak directly from the cooler to the grill, so the steak cannot get warm in the middle. In order for a steak from the cooler to be served warm in the middle, it will typically turn out medium instead of rare.
There is a secret to make a steak rare with a warm center. This process will take just 15 to 20 more minutes to prepare which is about the time it will take the guests to eat they appetizers or to enjoy an aperitif before dinner so it should not delay the serving timing whatsoever. Remove the steak from the refrigerator and place it on an iron cast dish, cover it up and place the dish on the shelf on top of the stove where the heat temperature is about 250 degrees, this is hot enough to warm up the steak without cooking the center and it is very safe as it takes only 15 minutes which does not allow enough time for any kind of bacteria to develop. Then place it on a very hot wood burning grill to make the grill marks on the surface and give it a nice wood-burning flavor, and voila, you now are ready to serve a rare steak with a warm center. Make sure that you season the steak with salt and pepper before cooking so the salt penetrates the inside of the steak to enliven the flavors.
A great steak also calls for a great accompaniment sauce, and I am not just talking about a pre-made bottled sauce but a nice, voluptuous emulsion sauce such as a classical Béarnaise sauce made with fresh tarragon, clarified butter in a shallots vinegar peppered reduction. Other great options would be a Cabernet Sauvignon wine reduction smothered with high quality butter or even branded medium spicy Dijon mustard which is one of my favorite being born in France.
To make it a perfect dinner, let’s not forget a side dish such as sautéed Cepes or Girolles mushrooms, two of the greatest seasonal mushrooms available in the market. Just add a pinch of garlic, a spoon of butter and some freshly chopped parsley and you have one of the best side dishes going head to head with a succulent piece of meat.
Of course, potato is a great starch to compliment the steak. I would suggest first homemade garlic parmesan French Fries lightly tossed in black truffle oil. My second suggestion would be au Gratin potatoes using of course a high quality gruyere cheese or for our Arkansas locals a sweet potato au gratin. My third recommendation would be the famous Idaho baked potato that can also be mashed and goes extremely well with any cut of beef.
Steakhouses are still very much in demand, but it has to be done right to be successful. Customers know what the difference is between an OK steak and a great steak and are very happy to pay the price for quality. It also has to be an entire experience so it is important to create one that is memorable for customers. You always want to make sure that when they think about having a steak dinner, they will think only about selecting a location that features Prime steaks, in a special atmosphere, where the restaurant consistently provides a memorable dining experience no matter what the occasion.
When a location provides the best available prime meat on the market, ensures exceptional timely and personalized service, provides an extended wine list with great price-value, gives the guests a warm and sincere welcome with a big smile and a fond farewell; they will continue to come back and will probably tell others about their wonderful experience. It is also important to make sure you guests know how much you appreciate their business and cannot wait to see them return again and again.
This article was co-authored by André Poirot, Executive Chef of The Peabody Little Rock. Like his fictional namesake, M. Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s inimitable detective, Chef André Poirot is an aficionado of fine dining and the art of haute cuisine. Unlike M. Hercule Poirot, a Belgian Poirot, Chef André Poirot was born and raised in France and hails from the beautiful, bountiful region of Alsace-Lorraine. Chef André was an honor roll student and received his culinary diploma in 1977. He then began his traditional European apprenticeships, serving as a commis at the Ets Blache restaurant in Remiremont, France and in the hallowed kitchens of The Savoy on the Strand in London. He completed his military duty at Pont St. Vincent, France as a chef mess officer and went on to be saucier at Thomas de Quincey’s restaurant in London. His style of cooking – light and elegant – won him respect and awards and a spot on the Discovery Channel’s “Great Chefs of New Orleans, the New Garde.” His recipes are prominent in the cookbook titled “Great Chefs,” which was spawned by the TV series on the Discovery Channel and repeated on PBS. He won the title of Arkansas Iron Chef at the 2006 Arkansas Hospitality Association competition and was recently awarded "Best Taste" for four consecutive years at the Taste of the Rock competition, sponsored by the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. Chef André is responsible for all food operations for The Peabody Little Rock from in-room dining and Capriccio Grill to catering for the hotel’s guests and for delegates at the Statehouse Convention Center.
In 2011, Alain Piraux was named the director of food and beverage for The Peabody Little Rock. His impressive resumé boasts experience in the food and beverage industry from hotels in Tokyo, Japan and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. After receiving his degree in management and culinary arts from Ecole of Hotellerie in Paris, France, Mr. Piraux went on to serve as executive assistant manager of food and beverage at four properties of The Ritz-Carlton chain. He served on a task force for The Ritz-Carlton openings in Jamaica, Puerto Rico and China, as well as various U.S. locations. Prior to joining The Peabody family, Mr. Piraux was the executive assistant director of food and beverage at the Hilton Tysons Corner in McLean, Va. Mr. Piraux's vast experience ranges from executive chef and operation of food and beverage outlets to revenue management, sales and marketing strategies, and facilities renovations. Mr. Piraux can be contacted at 501-906-4000 or firstname.lastname@example.org Extended Bio...
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