Culinary Quips

Culinary Quip: A chat with Chef Joe Knauss

Chef Dennis Pitchford

Chef Joe Knauss knew at a young age that he wanted to be in the culinary arts, and by the time he was 19 years old he was working as Sous Chef in a major hotel chain while working on his culinary degree at St. Paul College.  Chef Knauss has been highly successful in his career, working with some of the top chefs in the industry including Chef De Cuisine James Baerd award winner Chris Schlesinger and corporate chefs from some of the top chains in the industry.  

He has worked not only in top hotels under top Chefs, but also has a wide variety of experience in all aspects of foodservice from corporate dining services to owning his own Brazilian Steakhouse, named a top 15 family restaurant by Money Magazine and being a private chef.  This unique expertise from business ownership to understanding the individual needs of consumers allows for a professional perspective that balances trends, consumers and business management to deliver on trend ideas.  

In his current role with Manitowoc Foodservice, Joe is constantly on the move as the Corporate Chef Global Accounts, assisting one of the leading global QSR brands. A few of the day-to-day responsibilities that Chef Joe enjoys is product development in conjunction with food manufacturer partners and helping to determine new uses for current Manitowoc Foodservice equipment as part of menu development and enhancement. He is also integral in the development of new equipment opportunities to create ongoing partnership opportunities between Manitowoc Foodservice and the restaurants.

Q: What would you consider your signature dish?

A: Because of where I live, fresh fish is always a favorite.  One of my favorite/signature dishes is hardwood charcoal roasted whole hog snapper stuffed with pink shrimp, lemon garlic and fresh thyme.  

Q: What are the five ingredients you always have in the kitchen at home?

A: Sea salt, black pepper that can be ground fresh, lemons, fresh garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

Q: Tell us about your favorite dessert.

A: Key Lime Pie made with fresh limes from the tree in my backyard.  It’s the perfect classic dessert, fresh and local the way I make it.

Q: What is your favorite type of cuisine and why?

A: Mediterranean/Spanish Tapas. As a chef I love to share and try different foods. Tapas makes it possible to try and experience a variety of flavor combinations, proteins and sauces without needing to order a full meal.   

Q: What was your favorite menu item to test and what cooking platforms did you use for the solutions?

A: There are two projects that are probably my favorites. The first one involves accelerated cooking technologies utilizing the Convotherm Combi Oven and Merrychef to find ways to offer fresh baked goods to consumers within very strict QSR time constraints.  Time is of the essence in the QSR environment, and consumers are demanding more than ever from their experience. So we are rising to the challenge by utilizing our top of the line cooking technologies. 

The second involves capitalizing on consumer demand for new ways to enjoy protein or cooking methods beyond traditional grilling for proteins in QSR.  Our customers are always looking for ways to expand their offerings in order to continue to grow in a very competitive QSR environment. Lincoln and Convotherm are two platforms that offer a variety of cooking options for our customers, which in turn allows for menu expansion that meets consumers needs.

Q: What is the most challenging project you have worked on in your time with Manitowoc Foodservice.

A: We are currently working on a project to deliver a pressed/panini sandwich under very specific time constraints for the QSR industry.

Q: What is your favorite Manitowoc Foodservice brand?

A: Convotherm Combi Oven is my favorite piece of equipment due to its overall versatility, from size to cooking capabilities, to energy savings.  You have to love a piece of equipment that can smoke meats, bake breads and steam lobster.  

Q: What would you tell an operator as to why it is important to purchase quality and reliable equipment?

A: Most kitchens are running on a very tight labor schedule producing large volumes of food in a small space.  When equipment goes down the chef adapts quickly but it throws a major wrench in the operation.  If you have unreliable equipment that continually breaks down two major things will happen in your operation that will directly affect the customer.  Chefs start to cut corners in the cooking process thus creating poor quality food.  It creates stress and lowers morale of the kitchen staff. No longer is pride taken in creating the food and you are again serving inferior products to your customer.  

Q: What trend or trends do you see mainstreaming?

A: Since I work mainly in the QSR segment, I am able to see trends as they begin to mainstream and figure out how they can be executed on a mass scale.  Right now we are working with local, fresh and green products to provide them in a timely manner consumers have come to expect from QSRs with the quality that is driving growth in the fast casual segment.  Trends that go along with these consumers trends are decreasing the overall footprint of the kitchen, saving valuable resources likes energy and creating equipment that can do more in less time and space.  Manitowoc Foodservice is helping our partners in all of these areas achieve great success.

Follow Chef Joe on Twitter @ChefJoeKnauss