Kitchens comfort us with memories, conversation, teaching and learning. But the COVID-19 pandemic and its lack of options for dining out changed the home kitchen’s role in daily lives.
With society running on a new schedule, chefs at the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand explored different ways to connect with consumers.
Senior corporate chef Michael Ollier and Test Kitchen manager Gavin Pinto started by meeting consumers where they are—in the comfort of their homes.
"We want to be sensitive to the reality people are facing," Ollier said. "They may see store shelves that are empty or prices that alarm them."
The chefs saw a light through the chaos, opportunities for shoppers to learn how to prepare different cuts of beef, bond with family and share lifelong skills.
For Ollier, the silver lining is being home with family.
"We’ve got two boys, 12 and 16, and those are great ages to be there as a dad," he said. This spring, he’s had the chance to pass down techniques and "critical life skills" at a critical time.
"Just like that, the boys will be out of the house," Ollier thought. "What skill sets have I passed on? Are the guys properly prepared? They need to be able to cook a steak and cook it well."
Behind the scenes
To better connect with consumers, CAB chefs decided to shift their focus and outreach to reflect the 2020 realities by bringing consumers into their own kitchens.
"We started thinking of different topics," Ollier said. "We wanted to share our personal experiences and what home is like for us right now."
They drew on what home is like for many consumers, stocking their freezers with beef to take advantage of good deals. That brought up freezing and thawing techniques.
"I’ve always been kind of a meat hoarder," Pinto said, "so it’s not unusual for me to have weeks’ worth of meat in the freezer." Naturally, he shared how to properly package and freeze beef to preserve its quality and flavor. "Air is your enemy when freezing, cool water your friend when thawing."
Pinto emphasized pantry and family-style meals. "When people were really hunkered down hard, I focused on things they might’ve had around the house, instead of fresh herbs and things like that."
From ramen noodle Hamburger Helper to chicken-fried steak fingers, Pinto made recipes easy and fun for families.
Although they are only a few minutes long after edits, the videos take several hours to create.
"I have to clean my kitchen," Pinto said with a smile. "Then I have to plan the meal, prep the filming equipment and cook the dish. An eight-minute video takes two hours to record."
A new studio
Like most, the normal routine and work environment for CAB chefs changed with stay-at-home orders.
They had to get creative.
Instead of highly-produced video from the Certified Angus Beef ® brand Test Kitchen, the chefs turned to simple home cooking—from their cell phones.
"We went from five videographers and three vantage points," Pinto says, "to an iPhone on a tripod with one light and a mic."
They had to recruit a new studio crew. Wives, kids and grandkids turned into videographers, sous-chefs and stand-up comedians.
Pinto’s favorite thing about the home videos is the help from his son, Aidan.
Between beef jokes and whisk "sword fights," the nine-year-old added his unique touch. "He jumped right in," the proud dad said. "It was his idea to help me—he looks forward to being in the videos."
Corporate chef Peter Rosenberg took social distancing to a new level. Though separated by more than 1,300 miles, he cooked a Mother’s Day breakfast with a five-year-old granddaughter through the Zoom app.
They fixed a CAB tenderloin breakfast sandwich and chocolate-covered strawberries.
"Goodbye from Ohio," Rosenberg said to his granddaughter at the end of the call. "Goodbye from Texas," she responded. Online viewers could add their own closing notes.
The CAB chefs plan to apply what they have learned this spring to their operations back at the brand’s Test Kitchen and Culinary Center.
"We are producing real, accessible content from our homes with our iPhones," Ollier says. When they get back to a full crew and all the available tools, they’ll keep the focus on authentic content.
Pinto added, "You don’t want to lose that person-to-person feeling."
The ultimate goal for everyone is consumer success, he said. "We want people to have confidence at home to cook a quality piece of meat—to feel like they can tackle anything they find in the store because they know enough about it or have seen our videos."
That success increases demand for the world’s leading premium beef brand, which adds comfort to the cattlemen and women who supply the meat.