Ingredient Tips

Jan 30, 2020

We asked some of our Synergy consultants about the new favorite ingredients they’ve discovered and used lately. Check these out for inspiration:

“I’ve been enjoying espelette pepper recently. The smoky, sweet, and slightly spicy flavor gives a new dimension to roasted meats and fish.”

Dean Small, Founder & Managing Partner

Espelette pepper

“I really enjoy experimenting with dry Spanish chorizo because it’s so versatile. You can eat it as is, dice it and cook it crispy to add to egg dishes, and the oil is great to whisk into a vinaigrette.”

Mike Walls
Operations & Beverage Consultant


“I like to use sodium citrate in the test kitchen to make cheese slices or sauces out of any cheese, even those that don’t melt well normally.”

Natasha Reta, Chef/Culinary Consultant

“If you haven’t had a chance to use green almonds, definitely check them out. They’re basically unripe almonds, and they are great for pickling or for making a delicately flavored almond soup.”

Anne Haerle, Concept Development & Culinary Consultant

Green almonds

Synergy Top Money-Saving Tips

Jun 28, 2019

“Jigger all bar drinks to stop over-pouring and ensure that drinks are consistent. If you don’t like jiggers, then make sure to use speed pourers and pour test all the bartenders on a regular basis.”

  • Mike Walls, Operations & Beverages

“Teach your back-of-house staff how to properly utilize available portion tools to reduce food waste and labor hours. Staff should always be given proper instruction and training on kitchen tools and equipment during onboarding and station training.”

  • Natasha Reta, Culinary & Operations

“Assign front-of-house side work and cleaning tasks at the beginning of each shift. Team members will finish much more quickly if they can start as soon as business winds down. Assign tasks like folding napkins and rolling silverware to host staff to do before and after the rush.”

  • Rita Imerson, Operations & Training

“Cross-train all back-of-house staff on as many kitchen positions as possible. With our ever-tightening labor market, gone are the days of the specialist except for certain high-skill tasks like butchery. If everyone on the team can jump in and handle any station, you can best utilize all your staffing resources.”

  • Anne Haerle, Culinary & Concept Development

Perfect Pizza—it Boils Down To This One Thing

Jul 25, 2018

PIs there such thing as a perfect pizza pie? With so many options (Neopolitan, Roman, New York style, Chicago deep dish, etc.) there’s no clear answer! However, when it comes to authentic Italian pizza, there is one thing that positively defines the perfect pie— a crispy, light, and chewy crust complete with charred dark spots.

We can break down how to make perfect dough, but the one variable that makes or breaks a perfect pie is the oven. Sorry home chefs, you’ll be hard-pressed to replicate the delicious crust because as science has it, to achieve the same results, you must have a brick oven.

With a brick oven, the bricks slowly transfer heat to the dough (as compared to a steel oven). This simple nuance provides a largely different outcome because now there’s a balance between cooking—the crust can be cooked at a very high temperature while the pizza toppings cook with the oven’s indirect heat simultaneously.

More about this phenomenon here.


Lardo—It’s All the Rage

Jun 24, 2018

Step aside, duck fat, because fatback is stepping into the spotlight. Wait…what’s “fatback” exactly? It is just what it sounds like, fat from the upper back (of a pig) and is a revered ingredient utilized in traditional charcuterie and Italian cooking as well as in American southern cooking and soul food. Lardo is a type of hard fat which is consists of adipose tissue under the skin of the back with or without the rind. What’s does it look like? Think of a slab of bacon without the meat part.


Love sausages like nduja or cudighi? How about lardo? Yup, all made with fatback. Let’s take a closer look at lardo. It’s a kind of salume (Italian cold cut) created by curing strips of fatback with a mixture of salt, spices, and herbs. The flavor of lardo is one of creamy, richness—it tastes porky and buttery. It’s like lard’s fancy, gourmet cousin.


Interestingly, lardo is not something you’ll only find in an Italian kitchen these days. A renewed interest in lardo is forming among various types of cuisines. In Portland, Oregon, a restaurant named Lardo serves up a (surprise, surprise)– lardo-inspired menu. B.S. Taqueria in Los Angeles offers a truly unique clam and lardo taco. Going even one step further with revered animal fats is the use of leaf lard. This kind of lard is the pork fat found around the kidneys. Bakers like those at Sullivan Street Bakery in Hell’s Kitchen use the non-porky flavored fat to create buttery and flaky crusts.


With the nose-to-tail movement being embraced by many millennials today, it’s no wonder that animal fats like fatback, lardo and leaf lard are making their marks in more and more restaurant kitchens.


Implementing Superfoods Into Your Menu

Nov 08, 2017

Last week, we shared about how the “better-for-you” restaurant category is gaining a lot of traction in the industry. We explored different superfoods—nutrient-packed, healthy foods—like blueberries, salmon, and edamame. Other common superfoods include tomatoes, dark chocolate, almonds, quinoa, kale, and lentils. Superfoods provide several health benefits including an abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and polyphenols.


If you’re looking to offer healthy dishes, superfoods are pivotal ingredients! Below we explore simple ways for you to incorporate superfoods into your menu.


Salad: Kale remains to be a popular and healthy green leafy vegetable of choice! A simple kale cobb salad (add hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, chicken breast, avocado) dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette is a healthy, nutrient-dense menu option.


Soups: Skip the heavy cream and go healthy and light. Wholegrain quinoa is delicious in soups. Mix in some hearty beef or chicken broth, lentils, veggies like broccoli (another superfood), and tomatoes for a delicious and hearty garden vegetable soup.


Pasta: Pumpkin doesn’t have to be just in pies and lattes! A pumpkin-filled ravioli with spinach pesto sauce is a great way to fulfill that craving for savory goodness. Pumpkins contain cancer-fighting alpha and beta-carotene while spinach is a great source of vitamins and iron.


Dessert: We all know how deliciously perfect chocolate and berries go together. Incorporating dark chocolate adds a wonderful decadent superfood full of antioxidants. Consider serving a dark chocolate mousse topped with strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. If you want to get a little more exotic, serve the mousse with fresh goji and acai berries. For a breakfast spin, create a Greek yogurt parfait with berries and chia seeds, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids.


Drinks: Sweet iced tea can be very sugary! Try a sugar-free, refreshing iced green tea infused with fresh ginger root (ginger is known to help with relieving nausea, aiding in digestion, and reducing heart disease risk). A no-sugar-added watermelon drink is a tasty and refreshing beverage to add to your menu during the summer season.


There are so many options you can consider when working with superfoods. Next week, we will explore this further as we check out some awesome healthy restaurant menu items.


HOST Milan 2017 and the Best Pizza Dough

Nov 03, 2017

Milan is often regarded as the fashion capital of the world. However, every two years, professionals in the hospitality industry flock here to preview innovations in food and beverage. While attending the 2017 HOST show in Milan, Danny and I were able to check out the latest and greatest in restaurant technology and also traverse our way throughout Italy feasting our taste buds in delight.


Here at Synergy, we like to call ourselves the “pizza experts,” but that doesn’t mean we aren’t open to different methods of pie-making! To be successful means to have an open mind to new ideas and innovations. This brings me to our exploration of pizza oven technology at the HOST show.


Sure, we all know that a delicious crust typically comes out of a wood-fired oven, but… I had an amazing pizza that actually came out of an electric oven! The crust turned out beautifully and of course, the flavor was spot-on. In the spirit of good eats and ideas, I wanted to share all that you need to create a young, non-aged dough that delivers a great tasting and looking pizza.


  • Double O flour
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Fresh Yeast

And by the way, there is NO sugar or oil required.

The moral of the story today? It’s amazing what is possible when you open your mind to exploring new and innovative ideas!


Sustainable Seafood is a Hot Trend

Oct 15, 2017

October is known for cool weather, autumn leaves, and yes, pumpkin-spiced everything! But did you know that the month of October is National Seafood Month? As restaurant managers, it may be easy to overlook seafood as a star ingredient while beef or chicken take center stage on the menu. However, seafood serves as a great protein choice for a variety of consumers, perhaps due to its taste or ability to meet certain dietary restrictions. Beyond that, sustainable seafood is also a hot restaurant trend for 2017. A recent survey conducted by Cargill found that 88 percent of Americans are willing to pay more for seafood that is certified sustainably and responsibly sourced.


A growing number of chefs and restaurants, even those in the fast-food sector like McDonald’s, recognize the importance of providing sustainable seafood. What exactly is sustainably-raised seafood? Any seafood that is caught or farmed in ways which support the well-being of the species, oceans and coastal communities is considered “sustainable.” For a guide on buying sustainable fish and shellfish, visit


If you’ve decided to take the plunge and begin offering sustainable seafood at your restaurant, you may want to consider how to highlight these ingredients on your menu. Consider the following dishes as menu inspiration:

–    Fish and chips with a unique housemade sauce like the one at Nobu 57 in New York City

–     Crab cakes with a spicy, Southern-style remoulade sauce

–     Manhattan clam chowder served in a bread bowl

–     Grilled or fried shrimp po’boy sandwiches


For more information on sustainable seafood and National Seafood Month, check out NOAA fisheries site here.


Ingredient of the Week: Black Garlic

Apr 16, 2017

Garlic has got to be one of the most widely used ingredients in the world. In cuisines across the globe, garlic lends itself as a go-to flavor enhancer for various dishes. Its pungent and spicy profile seems to make just about everything taste better.

Ok, you garlic lover, you. Want to try a different version of garlic? One that’s sweet and savory at the same time? Try black garlic. This stuff is wonderfully different—soft, sweet (like molasses), chewy, sticky, savory and fruity. This is a specialty that’s commonly found in Asian cuisine, created by taking bulbs of garlic and cooking them at a temperature of 140 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit in a humid environment from anywhere from two weeks to a month or so. The final product comes out to look like garlic but with a dark brown to black color.

So, how do you eat it? This Huffington Post article’s got some great recipes to get you started: How To Cook With Black Garlic, Which Isn’t What You Think It Is

Check out the video below for the recipe:


Elevate Your Breakfast and Brunch with an Easy Hot Toddy

Mar 12, 2017

Some kitchen gadgets only serve one purpose—an avocado slicer, can opener, a coffee maker. Well, actually, the French press can do more than make great coffee. Instead of indulging some mimosas this Sunday during your brunch, you can try a hot toddy, à la your new multi-purpose French press.


At Moneygun in Chicago, mixologists are serving up signature hot toddies using French presses. If you’re unfamiliar, a hot toddy (hot Whiskey in Ireland) is a warm cocktail, typically made of liquor, hot water, honey, and spices. Utilizing the French press like a tea pot makes it easy to create your own unique hot toddy and can elevate your breakfast or brunch experience.


Get the Moneygun Hot Toddy recipe here.


Cheesing it Up

Feb 23, 2017

There are just some foods that always stay at the top of our “comfort food” list. Yes, we’re talking about cheese–it can be warm, it can be cold, sweet or savory, yet always delicious in all forms. It is quite hard to find those who dislike this versatile, delicious ingredient.

While comfort dishes like mac’ and cheese, grilled cheese and pizza often come to mind when thinking of crave-worthy meals where cheese is prominent, we wanted to share the spotlight with others that may not be so well known. So cheese-lovers, without further ado, try out the cheesy and scrumptious dishes below:


  1. Beer cheese- is this the next ultimate bar snack? If you haven’t heard of it, beer cheese does sound a bit peculiar (or extremely delicious?). Actually, there are two kinds—beer cheese dip and beer cheese spread. Right now we’re loving beer cheese dip. A dip that’s made of cheese, beer, mustard and your choice of seasonings. Pretzels, chips, bread—all fair game for dipping! Get the recipe.
  1. Queso flameado- “flamed cheese” is the translation for this awesome dish (aka “queso fundido” and “choriqueso”). It’s cheese. It’s chorizo. It’s flambéed (or broiled). And it’s absolutely delightful! Get the recipe.
  1. Korean corn cheese – simple but so tasty. Often found at Korean restaurants (think fried chicken, or BBQ joints), corn cheese is a side dish concocted of cheese (like mozzarella), corn kernels, mayonnaise, seasonings and herbs, baked to bubbly perfection. Get the recipe.
  1. Paneer pasanda- This Indian dish consists of paneer (fresh cheese) slices in savory and smooth, aromatic tomato, onion and cashew paste curry gravy.   Get the recipe.