What’s your beef? We’re going to talk about hamburgers

It’s nearly summer, but that doesn’t keep us from firing up the grill and cooking some burgers.

In this episode, we’ll tell you where burgers come from, how many are eaten and how the perfect diner burger. Set your buns down and listen in.

Turn up the heat with a culinary arts degree. A Nashville chef/instructor tells all.

Imagine yourself standing next to Susie Fogelson, senior vice president of marketing and brand strategy for Food Network as you’ve just been introduced as the next Food Network Star.  You’re on your way to the big time.

This week’s guest, Dr. Paul Brennen, runs the Culinary department at Nashville State Community College which is where many of the city’s food service workers begin their careers talks about what it takes to succeed in kitchens, the best path to success and how much money you might hope to make. Dr. Brennen has seen it all from his experience in the industry, including the highly-respected title of WCMC Master Chef.

If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to work on a line, you’ll learn all about it here.

Nashville State Community College Culinary Department

Smart Cookie: How to eat a taco

Sure, it sounds easy, but how often have you bitten into a crispy taco only to have it break apart and spill all over your plate — or your lap.

There is a technique to eating a taco and in this episode we’ll tell you how to successfully build and eat a taco.

The Strawberry Patch

It’s strawberry time and soon legions of intrepid consumers will swarm over local patches to fill buckets with fresh berries. Soon, those berries will find their way onto shortcakes and under whipped cream, in pies, ice cream and many other goodies.

Those strawberries don’t come out of nowhere. Berry farmers begin work the previous year, putting down new plants and carefully tending them so they emerge sweet and juicy the next spring. Ralph Cook of Bottom View Farms tells us what it takes to get the crop ready on the farm he has owned for more than 60 years. This is your chance to learn more about where your food comes from and why people drive long distances to hunch over plants in the hot sun.

Bottom View Farms

Water, Water everywhere and lots of food to eat

When you water your garden, you’re mostly watering the soil and, from there, the plants. Well, what if you did away with the dirt entirely? That’s what hydroponic farming is all about.

David Goodman runs a hydroponic farm in Nashville, but it’s not where you would expect it to be — it’s in a shipping container. Listen in and David will tell you how it works.

Rally House Farms

USDA information on hydroponics

Selling whisky and sharing karma

Distillers take great pride in the whiskies they make. It takes a lot of work to make sure the grain meets quality standards, that the yeast is properly cared for and the mashbill has all the flavors needed before the liquid is strained and put into barrels.

But sometimes distillers make too much or don’t make enough. Jeff Hopmayer then goes to work buying and selling that whisky. In this episode, Jeff tells us how he works his magic around the world and sources the whisky distillers need to match a specific flavor profile.

Brindiamo Group


Whisky is aged in barrels that are stored in rickhouses. The facilities run from two stories to many stories tall. The height has an impact on the taste of your whisky.

Whisky gets color and flavor from the barrel’s wood. Rickhouses allow air to flow freely through the building. Since hot air rises, it is warmer at the top of the building than at the bottom. Barrels in the warmest parts of the rickhouse absorb more whisky as the liquid expands. Likewise, when the weather turns cold, the liquid retreats from the wood. This “in and out” gives the whisky its flavor and color.

Then there is evaporation. Water molecules are smaller than alcohol molecules, so they are able to escape from the wood into the air. That reduces the amount of liquid in the barrel and the whisky ages faster. The warmer barrels give up more water while those on the bottom give up less.

Whisky from the top of the rickhouse will taste different from whisky stored near the bottom. The Master Blender mixes barrels from throughout the rickhouse to provide consistency to the product. Which brings us to small batch bourbons and single barrel bourbon.

Generally, small batch is a mixture of selected barrels from the rickhouse and has a flavor different from its primary product. Four Roses, for example, has its basic brand, its small batch and its single barrel. Small batch is the mixture.

Single barrels are exactly what you’d think – the drink comes from a single barrel. What that means is that unless you’re buying another bottle from the same barrel, each bottle will taste different. If you appreciate that variety, it can be fun. If you want more consistency, stay with small batch or the standard label.

And, if you have lots of cash on hand, some distillers allow you to taste different barrels from the rickhouse, then buy the whole barrel you like best. The base price on something like that is about $10,000, including bottling. It can cost much more depending on the product.

Keep in mind a couple of things: The longer the whisky has been in the barrel, the less of it there will be and evaporation is the culprit. If it’s a really old whisky, it will cost more because of the expense of holding it so long. Plus, after about eight years, the whisky has gotten all the benefit it’s going to get from the wood. Every product is different, but if someone wants to sell you 15-year-old whisky, the price will have more to do with the reduced volume in each barrel and the storage cost than it will with taste.

Could a franchise make you rich?

Franchises. They’re everywhere and that’s the whole point. If a company wants to grow, but doesn’t have the capital to open as many stores as it may like, it can sell rights to use its concept to individual investors who hope to gain success with a proven concept. This week attorney John Lewis walks us through the ins and outs of franchising and we give you some information on what it would take for you to open your own restaurant.

That’s a franchise?

Franchising isn’t limited to fast food. Hotels, cleaning services, oil change shops and a whole lot more provide a multitude of possibilities for entrepreneurs.

Take Quaker Steak and Lube. These restaurants sell wings and burgers, among other things, with a motorsports theme. Entry price: $60,000.

Is real estate more your speed? You can be a home inspector with  National Property Inspection for a up-front cost of about $40,000 and an 8 percent monthly royalty. Want to sell real estate? Electronic Realty Associates (ERA) can set you up for an investment of $48,000 to $210,000 and a 6 percent royalty.

Are you good with your hands? Maybe Handy Pro will nail it for you. Your starting investment is $49,000 to $68,000 with a 6 percent royalty.

Is beauty your place to shine? Try Waxing the City. About $117,000 will get you in the door and full treatment will rip 5 percent of your coverage.

If you like toolin’ around in a truck, a Snap-On Tools franchise may be appealing. To get behind the wheel, you need $172,000 to $375,000 and $125 a month as a franchise fee. For that, you get the right to buy tools at discount prices and resell them for whatever price you choose. You can buy or lease your van and, of course, the company can help you finance all of this.

A Circle K convenience store buy-in is $211,000 to $1.6 million with a royalty of 3.7 to 5 percent.

You can clean up with a Molly Maid franchise. For $86,000 to $130,000 you get the right to your mop and bucket with a 3.5 to 6 percent royalty.

Of course, all of this is very simplified information and, as John told us, be sure to get a complete copy of the franchise’s disclosure documents and read them very carefully.

Lewis Thomason

California franchise document search

Minnesota franchise document search

Wisconsin franchise document search

Smart Cookie: Curry

What is curry and how do you use it? After listening to this episode, you’ll be a smart cookie!


Curry is confusing.

Is it a leaf? A powder? A dish? A paste?

Let’s start figuring that out by doing away with the idea of trying to curry favor with someone. That comes from a poem written in the 1300s and has more to do with a horse than food.

Curry as we spell it, first shows up in the mid-1700s as a derivation of the Middle English word c u r y, which means “to cook.” Use of curry spices dates back to around 2600 BCE – that stands for before common era.

Today curries are a variety of dishes that typically include turmeric, chili powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground ginger and pepper. A curry may not contain all of these spices and cooks may add other herbs and spices as they like. Curries can be hot or mild.

Curry is most closely associated with India where cooks free-form the seasonings so they are different depending on the dish they are preparing. Curries also vary from region to region.

Curry powder is a British thing. It’s thought that when Brits came home from India, they created the powders to simulate what they’d eaten while expanding the British empire. It’s thought some of those spices found their way into goulash.

The spice mixtures are turned into pastes and added to food. The paste can be put directly on meat or vegetables. If you add very little liquid to the dish, the moisture cooks away and it’s called a dry curry. If you use the spices in more of a gravy, it’s a wet curry.

The BBC offers up a curry paste recipe that uses vinegar and vegetable oil along with a spice mixture. Yogurt or coconut milk can also be used to make pastes. In western India, they use tomatoes.

All of which brings us to masala, which simply means a mixture of spices. You may have had the dish Chicken Tikka Masala. Tikka means “bits and pieces”, so you end up with chicken bits and pieces and a mixture of spices.

You’ve probably heard of garam masala, which is the typical curry spice mix, but without the turmeric. It also has warming spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg. That’s what garam means – warming.

So now that I’ve got you all excited about curry, you probably want to know the best way to use it in the kitchen.

First you can buy or create or your own curry powder and decide if you want a wet or dry curry for whatever dish you have in mind.

Then you need to make sure you have patience. A curry is not something to be cooked quickly. You need to allow time for the dish to simmer … for the spices to come out.

Remember, curry is a blend of seasonings, so don’t over do it with the mixture you create. Be subtle. Give your palate lots of interesting things to taste.

You’re also going to need some aromatics such as garlic and onion. It’s a good idea to sweat the aromatics before adding the curry paste.

After that, it’s up to you what to put in your dish. Make it fancy with shrimp or put it in rice as a side dish. Try different things.

One thing you might see in the marketplace are curry leaves. These grow on trees in India, Thailand and Sri Lanka. They can be added at the end of cooking or be allowed to simmer with everything else. They are not a substitute for a curry spice mixture.

If you’re going to try these out, be sure to only use fresh leaves as drying them robs them of flavor. You can put the leaves in an airtight container and put them in the freezer for a week or so.

When you do add it to food expect to smell musk and spice with some citrus. It will taste warm, lemony and slightly bitter.

So now, when it comes to curry, you’re a smart cookie.