How to Network Without Even Trying

I secretly want to rename this post, “Bacon at its best”.  Come on…you know me…I’m a bacon addict.  I use any and every opportunity to eat, breathe, and speak bacon.  “But, Becca, what does bacon have to do with networking?”  Well, my friends, the answer is PLENTY!

Every other Friday morning, a group of social media (and bacon) obsessed people from northeastern Wisconsin head to the Blueberry Hill restaurant in Appleton, Wisconsin for some great conversation over breakfast.  Besides the fact that I’m helping to support a great local business, I feel awesome about splurging a few bucks on a good cup of coffee and some crisp, crunchy bacon, because it allows me to network.  At this stage in my education, I can’t do enough networking.  As I’ve learned, it’s quite possible that the next person you speak with could be your future employer. 

I met a couple of people at this morning’s breakfast that I hadn’t met before.  I learned that one of them is engaged to be married next May.  He and his fiance are looking for a caterer to help them with their rehearsal dinner.  Well, what a coincidence…I should be graduating with an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts right around that time, and I would LOVE to pursue a job in catering!  Had it not been for my attending this morning’s breakfast, I may never have met this guy, and I certainly wouldn’t have had the opportunity for such great conversation…and a simultaneous bacon experience.  See what I mean about life being all about the bacon? 

You should really work on trusting me just a little bit more.  Baby steps…

Before I let another week slip by me, I thought I’d give you a brief recap of Cultural Cuisine 2011.  To say that it was an epic success would be an understatement.  We pulled off a party to end all parties!  Catering events for 700 people are hard work to plan and execute, but when you have teams of dedicated individuals who don’t care who gets the recognition for a job well done, the task becomes much easier to achieve successfully.  Besides great teamwork, the executive and sous chefs did a phenomenal job preparing the food, and the administrative team helped orchestrate, among other things, happy crowds, staffing (wait staff, bussers, dishwashers, greeters, etc.), equipment set up & tear down, and a silent auction that raised thousands of dollars in culinary scholarship funds.  As with any event, there were a few hiccups here and there, but they’re to be expected.  The key was not letting our guests know that the problems existed, and I think we managed to do that.  It was a phenomenal experience and I can’t wait to do it again next year…although it may take that long for my feet to stop aching from this year’s event!  🙂

There was some beautiful and tasty food served at the event, so I truly wanted to share one of the recipes with you, but I had trouble narrowing my favorites down to one choice.  I also acknowledge that I’ve been posting an inordinate number of dessert recipes with you lately, so instead, I’m going to share my love of seafood and cajun spice with you.  Incidentally, this is tonight’s dinner at my house.  One of the things I love about jambalaya is its versatility.  You can mediate the spice level to suit your taste, and you can play around with the ingredients as well.  For example, if you don’t care for ham, leave it out.  If you adore red bell pepper and want to add a bit more to the recipe, have at it!  I adapted this particular recipe (and borrowed the picture, since I prepared my dish yet) from MattyBaker

His recipe uses some veggies that I prefer not to have in my jambalaya, such as carrots and mushrooms.  As I said, versatility and adaptability are great attributes of jambalaya, so I’m planning to omit them from tonight’s version.  I also plan to use whole grain brown rice instead of white. I hope you have an opportunity to try this recipe.  It looks amazing!  Considering the use of the habeneros, it’s probably quite spicy, too, but you won’t hear me complaining about that.  Bring on the heat…I LOVE it!

JUMPIN’ JAMBALAYA

INGREDIENTS:

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – diced
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup shrimp stock
1-1/2 cups long grain white rice
1/2 pound smoked sausage, sliced
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 orange habanero, finely chopped
1 16oz can of diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 pound of medium (20 ct) shrimp

DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently until soft. Add the chicken and continue cooking and stirring so that it does not stick. When the chicken is browned, add the celery, bell peppers and sausage and shrimp.
2. Pour in the broth, and bring to a boil. Add the rice, and season with cayenne, salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes, until rice is tender and broths have been absorbed.

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