On the Line: Eubaldo Ramirez Of Knott's Berry Farm, Part One
Photo by LP Hastings
Running a restaurant is tough. Try running multiple. Add to that payroll, scheduling, purchasing and cost controls. Roll that all up, and you get Eubaldo Ramirez of Knott's Berry Farm. We gave him some tough questions, but knew he could handle them. Just look at how he spends an average Friday.
You're making breakfast. What are you having? A good cup of coffee and chilaquiles (eggs and tortillas with red sauce).
What do you find is the toughest thing about maintaining food quality, and how do you solve that concern? The toughest thing is to thoroughly understand all of the different types of food and their ingredients. We have access to a very wide variety of food products that are all prepared differently, and with different methods at one time. We then must ensure that our staff has proper training for accurate execution, to consistently maintain the highest level of quality.
Let's discuss some of the newest tastes guests can experience at Knott's Berry Farm this year. Guests can experience classic favorites in a whole new light by pushing the quality of food and service to a whole new level. An example of that is our Churro Factory. Knott's is the home of one of the only churro factory in a theme park on the West Coast. There, churros are handmade daily and are filled with fresh fillings like boysenberry, strawberry and Bavarian crème. We also have some brand new items that will be revealed very soon. Stay tuned for some berry good items we will be adding to our menu.
Tell us about all the different culinary positions you held throughout the theme parks and hotel. My career began in the Food Preparation branch of Knott's culinary department. I later became a Chef, advanced to a Team Lead, then went on to become a Kitchen Supervisor, followed by a Banquet Chef and proceeded to be the Knott's Hotel Sous Chef. And ultimately got to where I am today.
One food you can't live without: Working vigorously long hectic days I mainly rely on a freshly made cold club sandwich to get me through my day. It's an easy and filling on-the-go meal to satisfy my hunger.
What's the one thing people didn't tell you about working in foodservice? While you have the passion for food and enjoying creating new dishes for people to experience, I was never told that I would have little time to sit down and really enjoy the end result. But the compensation is knowing that we created an amazing product for our guests to enjoy.
Give us an idea of how much food a kitchen produces in a day. For example, the consumption of fried chicken at Mrs. Knott's. We can produce over 14,000 pieces of chicken, 1,000 pieces of pie and 12,000 biscuits in a single day.
What was your most unusual catering request? Catering for different allergies and diet restrictions. You can have a vegetarian and meat eaters at the same event. It is important to cater to both. Sometimes the guest has multiple to very high restrictions on what they can and can't eat.
Favorite places to eat. A good steak house or pizzeria, but nothing tops my wife's delicious home-cooked meals!
One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true. A stereotype I encounter often is that I am only an executive sous chef, and all I do is cook. However, being an executive sous chef is much more than cooking. I handle most employee relations like scheduling and payroll. I order the supplies that are needed for all of our food locations. In addition to analyzing labor and food costs in accordance to the forecasted work week.
Managing over 100 people must be tough. What is the most challenging thing about being a manager? The most challenging thing is accommodating each employees needs while staying focused on the overall task at hand. The biggest reward is getting everyone to work as a team.
Describe a typical Friday in your shoes. What needs to get done? What unexpected challenges might come up? A typical Friday begins at 7:30AM - First, I check on one of the most important food locations: Four Cornerstones Café, the employee cafeteria. I make sure that the café is fully stocked, and that the staff is well-prepared. I also help prep the daily specials, and ultimately make sure that all is in place for a regular business day
Next, I make my way to receiving and delivery. There, we carefully look through all of our product deliveries to ensure the quality of the product, and verify that our vendors have delivered the correct items that were ordered for the work day or work week. Once the product is checked in, we distribute the items park wide (restaurants, catering events, picnics etc.) accordingly.
Then, I stop by the production bakery along with the team leads and verify that everything is moving smoothly and, more importantly, that all of our numbers, pars and goals are set accurately and are being met.
I will also check in with the production kitchen, which I evaluate just as I do the bakery. In the production kitchen, the bulk of the theme park food is made or prepped in order to be delivered throughout the park and Knott's Soak City water park (open seasonally, May - September). The production kitchen is where I work on all production lists that are given to each kitchen; the list tells them what needs to be cooked, prepped, and delivered for that day or week. During this time is also when I place the orders for meat, fish, poultry, dry goods, kitchen equipment as needed and produce.
Once I evaluate the work week and how much or how little to order, I make sure all data is imputed correctly into our Food Track system, which will deliver the orders to their corresponding vendor and track our inventory. My last order of business here is to check and keep up to speed on staffing. I review all schedules to make sure we are adequately staffed, employees are on time and all labor hours are up-to-date.
Lastly, a final evaluation of all food locations in and outside the park (restaurants, water park, food carts and kitchens) to be sure they are ready and able to operate for the day.
What would be your last meal on Earth? Rib eye steak with roasted vegetables and a sweet potato.
You've been with Knott's for over 30 years. What keeps you loyal? The opportunities that Knott's has given me throughout my career have been very rewarding, and have given me the ability to expand my knowledge and skills as a chef, to grow as an individual. The company, colleagues and leadership have supported me throughout the years much like a family would - after all, family is what Knott's was founded on, and that's what keeps me loyal.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.