Owner, The Good Table
Raised on a small farm in southern Vermont, Barbara has spent a lifetime surrounded by fresh food. After receiving her Master’s degree from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, she worked for a regional contract foodservice company opening new accounts. In 1989, Barbara co-founded Henahan Restaurant Group bringing restaurant-quality dining to corporate settings. Twelve years later, she launched The Good Table in Purchase, New York. Below are excerpts of a recent conversation with Barbara:
How did growing up on a Vermont farm influence your thoughts about food?
I was exposed to flavorful food at a young age because most of what I ate during childhood came from my family’s farm. We had a bountiful garden, fresh eggs, and Angus beef from grass-fed cows so we always had wonderful ingredients to cook with. My family also picked local strawberries, blueberries, and apples. I not only saw where my food came from, I participated in its production by helping with farm chores. I never forgot the delicious taste of freshly picked berries and tomatoes at peak ripeness and want my customers to experience those same flavors.
Why have you chosen to work closely with family farms?
They provide fabulous food. I especially like knowing where The Good Table’s produce comes from and so do our customers. Aside from that, I prefer to buy local whenever possible so I know the food is fresh.
What are the most important abilities you bring to the job?
I care about the details of every facet of the business from crafting well-stated emails to catering elegant parties. Since there are no cookie-cutter approaches to foodservice, I’ve learned to develop keen listening skills. I pay attention to what my clients want and then customize solutions to fit each unique situation.
What should a client look for in a foodservice provider?
Someone attentive, who can remain flexible enough to make changes as needed.
What kind of relationship do you have with your clients?
Honest. We’re direct with each other and work as a team whether to solve a problem or plan a big event.
Since you began your foodservice career in 1985 what lessons have you learned about corporate catering?
Never take your customers for granted and don’t get stuck in a rut. Breathe new life into your business by trying new recipes and dining out often at different restaurants for fresh inspiration. I’ve also found it helpful to periodically ask myself: What’s going well here? What should be improved? How can I continue to impress my customers?
How would you describe the food The Good Table turns out?
In a word? Yummy.
Executive Chef/Foodservice Director
When Keith began working with Barbara Moore in 1990, he brought with him invaluable expertise gained while cooking at legendary eateries such as Windows on the World, NYC and Restaurant Jean Louis, Greenwich. A foodservice veteran and graduate of Michigan’s Schoolcraft College Culinary Arts Program, he remains a never-ending student of global food trends. Whether overseeing on-site cafés or catered events for members of Forbes 400 companies, Keith consistently earns high marks for his fare. Aside from being an amazing chef, he’s a joy to work with. Excerpts of a conversation with Keith follow:
Why did you become a chef?
I’ve always had a passion for delicious food made with fresh ingredients. Whenever I tried something new that I liked, I’d do a little research on it and then try to make it myself, whether or not I had the recipe. This trial-and-error process lit a spark of creativity in me. I found that I wanted to learn more, improve upon certain dishes, and come up with my own creations.
How does cooking at an on-site cafe differ from restaurant cooking?
In a corporate setting, the menu must constantly change to keep your customers’ interest. This is especially important because you have a captive audience. The fun part is being creative and showing new things to your customers.
What playful things do you like to make?
Appetizers. I love the challenge of preparing something phenomenal in a one-bite portion. When guests pop one of my appetizers in their mouth, I want them to think, ‘Wow!’
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about cooking?
Timing is everything. What you can’t cook in front of the customer, you better plan out so that it looks and tastes as if it just came out of the pan.
How would you describe your cooking style?
My food is simply prepared with intense flavor “a la minute” using natural stocks and the best ingredients available. I received my most valued training, not in any school, but in the trenches working alongside new generation French chef Jean-Louis Gerin and classical-style senior chef Rene Chardain. How I cook has also been influenced by celebrity chefs such as Daniel Boulud and Paul Prudhomme.
What are your signature dishes?
This is hard to answer because we tailor our menus for each individual client. Summer Cassoulet with Braised Duck, Toulouse Sausage and French Beans; Jerk Chicken with Dirty Rice; and Ginger-Miso Grilled Salmon with Sticky Rice are among my favorite entrées. For a soup, I’d choose Chilled Gazpacho with Jonah Crabmeat and for a sandwich, I’d select Cilantro-Pesto Grilled Turkey Cutlet on Focaccia with Cubanelle Peppers. Flourless Chocolate Souffle Cake is my signature dessert.
How do you mentor others on your staff?
By setting as good of an example as possible. I talk with my crew constantly about how things look and taste and ask all my employees—even my utility worker—for their opinion. I believe employees that take ownership of their work make a place succeed.
Walter Mogrovejo is an example of an employee who climbed our career ladder one rung at a time. Walter was hired as a dishwasher in 1989 shortly after immigrating to America from Ecuador. Within a year, he was promoted to a deli position because of his initiative and ease at handling any job he was asked to do. From the start, it was obvious Walter liked working with food and showed promising organizational skills. He progressed from grill cook and prep cook positions to kitchen supervisor, and became a chef-manager in 1999.