At the last General Meeting hosted by Tribal Council on Friday, April 29 tribal members voiced concerns about a number of things they think the tribe can be doing better. A few of those concerns had to do with the casino restaurants.
During a tour on Tuesday, May 10 Executive Chef Bill Barbone and General Manager Charley Flagg showed Tribal Council what the kitchens look like, the products used and the appliances used to prepare the food.
It’s important to note that complaints – critiques – are very common in the restaurant business. Barbone and Flagg, said they hear feedback all the time and have taken steps to make things better.
For instance, wait times are often a top concern, especially amongst customers that have a limited lunch hour. To help combat the long waits, Barbone redesigned Willows Cafe & Bistro lunch menu so it’s simpler and faster to get out, Flagg said. The Casino has also invested in new equipment that helps cook food faster.
One new edition to the Rolling Thunder Grill is a machine that can cook up to seven- fresh-8oz burgers in 120 seconds. No more precooked burgers sitting in au jus, Barbone said. He hopes to buy the same machine for the Shining Mountain Grill.
Also, Barbone has heard concerns about wait staff not being on the floor to help customers. He said they have a new system that has been place for the last two-and-a-half weeks that helps keep more servers on the floor.
“Now cooks cook and servers serve,” Barbone said.
Another common question tribal members ask is why there isn’t much Native Cuisine to choose from. Barbone said that is a work in progress and the casino plans to continue adding Native foods to the menus.
The casino has also just hired a Native American baker that focuses on Native desserts, Barbone said. So customers should be seeing those added in the near future.
Cleanliness was not a complaint heard at the general meeting and it became apparent why it wasn’t once Barbone explained the time and money spent on keeping the kitchens clean.
“There is a crew that comes in at 9 p.m. to steam clean all the kitchens, nightly,” he said. “Twice a month we have the hoods (of the stoves) cleaned … no one cleans as much as we do.”
The casino also laid some rumors to rest about the use of powdered eggs, and food cooked in microwaves.
Barbone showed council the eggs used in the kitchen; a bag of liquid pasteurized eggs, which is an industry standard for safety reasons, he said.
As for the microwaved food, Barbone pointed out the only microwaves in the kitchen; one is used by the baker to melt butter and chocolate and the other is used only as needed to warm up food.
“We use the microwave to put heat on something, nothing is cooked in the microwave,” he said.
After the tour, Chairman Clement J. Frost and Councilman Tyson Thompson said they feel better about the kitchens after taking the tour.
“I’ve never had a problem with my food here,” Thompson said. “It has always been cooked to my liking.”