Duffy’s hopes test kitchen offers recipe for growth

Posted June 30, 2016 | No Comments.


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The ribbon cutting for Duffy’s new Culinary Arts Studio included (from left) Corporate Chef Eric Parker, President Jason Emmett, Geri Emmett, business partner Carlos Morrison and Lake Worth Mayor Pam Triolo.
STEVEN J. SMITH/FLORIDA WEEKLY
The ribbon cutting for Duffy’s new Culinary Arts Studio included (from left) Corporate Chef Eric Parker, President Jason Emmett, Geri Emmett, business partner Carlos Morrison and Lake Worth Mayor Pam Triolo. STEVEN J. SMITH/FLORIDA WEEKLY
Duffy’s has cooked up a new spot for testing recipes and training employees.

Jason Emmett, president of Duffy’s Sports Grill, recently hosted the ribbon cutting of a 3,000-square-foot test kitchen in a warehouse in a small industrial park off 10th Avenue North in Lake Worth.

“The idea started years ago,” Mr. Emmett said, during a break in the festivities. “It started with my father, Paul Emmett, who passed away last year. He and Eric Parker, our corporate chef, wanted to create a dedicated space to be able to demo new food and really get creative with our menu. Up until now we’ve been doing that in our restaurants, which tended to get in the way of those operations.”

The Culinary Arts Studio, as it is called, cost $550,000 to build and replicates an actual Duffy’s location, but is about half the size. In addition to the dining room — complete with huge flatscreen TVs, framed photos of sports legends Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Walter Payton, Muhammad Ali and LeBron James, along with iconic sports memorabilia — the studio is outfitted with all the cooking equipment one would find in a typical Duffy’s.

Mr. Emmett said an open display kitchen with up-to-date appliances and permanently mounted cameras will aid in the training of between 40 and 50 chefs at a time — whether in person or via the web in Duffy’s 32 restaurants throughout the state. This setup will expedite menu development and allow Duffy’s to launch new items throughout the company with improved efficiency and consistency.

“You’ll notice several TVs provide a closed circuit feed that gets piped directly into our restaurants simultaneously,” Mr. Emmett said. “So if a chef in Tampa doesn’t want to make the journey over here, he can see the exact same demonstration at the exact same moment as everyone else and show his own cooks how new dishes are created. This helps keep the consistency and the quality throughout the company, which is core to our operations concept.”

He said chefs and managers will undergo all kinds of training in the test kitchen, from monthly chef meetings and managers’ front-of-house training to brainstorming new dishes and improvements on old favorites.

“There will be a lot of culinary training going on here,” he said. “We can also do training for our bartenders and bar managers, because we’ve installed a full service bar here as well.”

The event featured some new dishes soon to join Duffy’s bill of fare, as well as some old favorites — lobster tacos, spicy Korean chicken, tuna tostados (raw tuna with tzatziki sauce), frita burgers (better known as Cuban hamburgers) and steak tacos. Guests washed down these samplings with margaritas, beer and a variety of soft drinks.

Mr. Emmett’s mother, Geri, also was on hand and expressed gratitude that the test kitchen had finally become a reality.

“My husband wanted this to happen for years,” she said. “I’m so glad we finally have it up and running. We are a family business and I’m so proud my children are moving the company forward.”

Lake Worth Mayor Pam Triolo, who served as the ribbon-cutter for the event, welcomed the Duffy’s test kitchen to her town in a short speech.

“In case you didn’t know, I’m a real foodie,” Mayor Triolo said. “I’m so glad that Lake Worth, a community known for visual arts and performing arts, will now be known for culinary arts as well.”

Mr. Emmett said as important as the new test kitchen will be in the evolution of new dishes and the improvement of old ones, it is just as crucial to incorporate feedback from Duffy’s servers and customers to move the company forward.

“We meet three times a year with our servers, bartenders and cooks,” he said. “No manager is allowed. We get a lot of great feedback from them, including what should go on the menu, what should come off and what customers are saying — what they love and what they don’t. We take that feedback and Eric Parker, the architect of our menu, creates new menu items and improves existing items. He may even decide to take some off the menu. He also examines what the newest trends are — farm to table and gluten-free items, for example — and he’ll create menu items for those. That will be another way this test kitchen will serve us.”



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