Month: January 2014

What?….that’s another way to use that, go figure!

Max Lecaros, National Sales Manager, Cook's

Max Lecaros

Have you ever taken an item and used it for something completely different from what it was created for? Take a credit card for instance. It’s used all the time to buy stuff, little stuff, big stuff, useless stuff. What else can you use that for? Look around, is there a loose screw somewhere. Just grab your trusty purchasing partner and tighten that screw. That’s right…I am sure you have at one point or another used a credit card as screwdriver.

Cook's 630-862 Full Tang Dough Cutter

Cook’s Brand 630-862 Full Tang Dough Cutter

Through our many conversations with customers, we’ve found that in a Correctional kitchen the ingredients of necessity and ingenuity work together to frequently serve up these a-ha moments. Let’s start with an easy one…the Dough Cutter. Traditionally used for what it’s named after, to cut dough. However many facilities have decided to replace all of their knives with dough cutters. That substitution was a catalyst for Cook’s to enhance the existing dough cutter design. We revamped it by adding silicon to the handle to provide more comfort when using it as a knife. Since it had a full tang blade, we added an eyelet to the side,  so that it may be tethered down to a table for security.

Just recently I learned from a customer of another a-ha moment. This facility is using the Cook’s Brand Cake Marker in a way we never thought!  While marking their cakes to create exact portions every time was the original use for their cake marker, they discovered the same grid creating those portions perfectly solved a different kitchen challenge. They make biscuits and didn’t have a way of keeping them from overlapping each other. So they use our cake marker to space out the biscuits so they do not overlap.

So what item do you use differently? Let me know, I would love to hear about it!   Leave a comment below with your a-ha moment.

Introducing the new Cook’s Brand Special Diet Label

Brian Richardson

Brian Richardson

by Brian Richardson

Cook’s recently launched a new product designed specifically for correctional meal delivery in our 2014 Correctional Buyer’s Guide, the Cook’s Brand Special Diet label.

Over the last 5 years, we’ve had many customers looking for a way to designate special diet meals for their inmates.  Those requests lead us to begin work on the Special Diet Label.  We started the process by talking to our customers and uncovered that the most common special diets were Kosher, Halal and low sodium, and that it was important to accommodate all of these because not all inmates have the same dietary restrictions.   In our design, we included each of these three different special diets with a check box as well a check box for ‘other’.  We also included a line to use for notes, for example to specify what ‘other’ means, or as a place to identify the inmate or location that the tray needs to be delivered.

Cook's Brand 2" x 3" Special Diet Label

Cook’s Brand Special Diet Label #630-SPD2

Under our Cook’s Brand private label you can now purchase these Special Diet labels to help you designate what type of meal you are serving so you do not mix up your special diet meals with your general population meals.  The best thing about this label is it’s dissolvable.   After the inmate is through with their meal and the tray is sent to  the dish room, the label will dissolve during the dishwashing process.  No more paper or gummy residue left on the tray or the lid from using a regular label – which was another concern uncovered in discussions with our customers.

We’ve launched this new label in two sizes; the Cook’s Brand Special Diet Label 630-SPD1 is  ½” x 2” and the Cook’s Brand Special Diet Label 630-SPD2 is  2” x 3” so that you can select the best fit according to your tray size.  Both sizes are sold in rolls of 500 labels.

As with all of our other Cook’s Brand products, we’re able to customize an item to fit your specific needs.  If you have a label size requirement that you don’t see available for sale, call us, we can make any size label you need.  We can make labels that are for a specific special diet, in different colors or in different sizes.  We’re always interested in hearing from our customers!

Meet the Bloggers – part 3 of 3

The final two members of our blog team are probably familiar faces if you’re a customer of Cook’s or if you’ve ever browsed through the Cook’s Correctional Buyers Guide anytime in the last 8 years.   Because our products are developed specifically for corrections, we like to photograph those products in correctional settings, but there aren’t too many inmates available for a photo shoot so the Cook’s employees often model for us.  It’s become a rite-of-passage for new members to our sales team!

Tim Saner, Sales Manager, Cook'sTim Saner: Sales Manager
Tim has been with Cook’s for eight years, holding a variety of positions in the sales department.  He started on the front lines, as a sales representative managing the west territory.  After three and a half years with the company, he was tapped to develop our bid desk – a new function for Cook’s at the time.  Tim has always demonstrated an attentiveness to our customers needs, methodical approach to developing opportunities, attention to detail and a desire to ‘build a better mousetrap’ if there’s room for improvement.  These traits made Tim the right candidate to make the company’s vision of this new role into a reality, and we believe they’ll drive his success in the sales manager role.  Tim is also the creative genius behind the Globe Whip, the Beverage Server lock and has had input on several other Cook’s Brand products.  Tim brings a point of view to our blog that will focus on the commonalities among our customers and many other interesting tidbits he comes across in his everyday dealings with the correctional foodservice professional.

Max 2Max Lecaros: National Sales Manager
While you wouldn’t know it by looking at our catalogs, Max had never done any professional modeling prior to joining Cook’s nine years ago!  That’s a bit of an inside joke here because Max has graced the cover of dozens of Cook’s catalogs since he walked in the door.  He’s a natural in front of the camera, and like the rest of us, he’ll do what ever it takes to get the word out about Cook’s.   Max started as a territory manager and then moved onto National Accounts, working with contract feeders across the country focusing on their specialized needs.  Prior to Cook’s, Max had several years of experience in the software industry.  Over his 9+ years with the company, Max has been in a wide variety of Correctional Kitchens getting to know first hand what our customers face on a daily basis and working to see how we can help them do their job better.  He’s handled several very large projects both new builds and renovations and has a wealth of experience that he will be taping into for his blog entries.

So now you’ve met the Cook’s Correctional Blog Team!  We hope that you’ll come back often, post comments and share with your contemporaries.

Meet the Bloggers – part 2 of 3

As I mentioned, there are several of us at Cook’s Correctional that will be contributing to this blog.  The goal is to bring you a variety of view points and topics that are relevant.  We want to provide you with information that you will value and ideally – that you can apply to the task of running a correctional foodservice operation.

Janet St. Clair, Customer Service Manager Cook'sJanet St. Clair: Customer Service Manager 
Janet took on the role of Customer Service Manager in 2013 after holding a variety of jobs within Cook’s, all of which involved helping the customer.  Starting with the company in 2003 in a temporary position at the front desk, Janet was hired full-time in 2005 where she worked in the customer service function for a several years.  She then moved to our Distribution Center where she was instrumental in improving our customer return process and helped to reduce freight expenses.   Handling customer returns has given Janet an in-depth understanding of what can go wrong and how to avoid it or make it right fast. She has lots of useful tips that you can put in place immediately that she’ll be sharing with you!

John Yaeger, New Business Development Cook'sJohn Yaeger: Business Development
John started with Cook’s in 2008 as a sales territory manager.  Prior to joining Cook’s he had a long history in the financial securities industry, although we really believe he made the transition from financial to correctional security pretty well!  He took on the role of Business Development two years ago to utilize his expertise in finding new solutions for our customer’s greatest challenges.  This past year, John was the lead on our largest kitchen renovation project in the history of Cook’s.    When there isn’t a set path, John is ready to roll up his sleeves and work with our customer to find a way to get them what they need and want.  Having worked with hundreds of customers during his tenure here, he brings a hands-on, practical wisdom to his posts.  We hope that much of what John writes will resonate with you immediately and that you’ll get some ideas to put to use in your operations right now.

Jeff Breeden, CEO Cook'sJeff Breeden:  CEO
Many of you have seen Jeff’s picture in the catalog, after all he’s been with Cook’s for 17 years. He and his father, Howard Breeden founded Cook’s in response to customer requests for the products he was specifying in many of the projects he did. It was the realization that the correctional FSM didn’t have a reliable resource for the right kind of products they needed in their kitchen that launched Cook’s. Over the years, Jeff has done every function in the company – overseeing the Cook’s Correctional catalog, managing the sales staff and even the purchasing.  As the company grew, so did our customers’ requests, and Jeff led Cook’s into developing and manufacturing innovative products made specifically for corrections.  In January of 2012, Howard retired and Jeff purchased the company and took on the role of CEO. With his hands on experience, industry connections and vision – Jeff’s writing will range from day-to-day operational know how to industry trends and observations.   When a project comes into Cook’s, Jeff still takes a look at it and reviews our strategy with the reps and other team members.  His insights into correctional kitchen operations will be an asset we look forward to sharing with you.

There are two more team members left – you’ll hear about them in our next post and then we’ll be getting out there with some great tips, a first look at a product introduction and even the newest Cook’s Infographic that will help you better plan your next equipment installation.   Our goal is to become a trusted resource for the correctional foodservice professional.  As Jeff said when he took over the company; “the best is yet to come!”

Meet the Bloggers

There are several bloggers here at Cook’s. To keep it simple, I’m going to introduce the team to you in groups – so there will be more introductions next week.  Here’s today’s batch:

Candace Meneou, Marketing Manager, Cook'sCandace Meneou (Me): Marketing Manager
I’ve been with Cook’s for nearly ten years in the marketing role. Much of my time has been spent working on the Cook’s Correctional Buyers Guide, so I have a surprisingly good understanding of many of the products we sell – I wrote a lot of the copy in the catalog. I also know a lot about you (our customers) but it’s generalized information, because I look at all 2400 active customers at one time, and I do a lot of data work. I oversee our social media and email activities too, so I read about the industry quite a bit to stay on top of what’s happening out there that’s of interest to our customers. I have a long career in marketing from distributor to manufacturer, but this is the only company I’ve worked at that focused on the correctional industry.

Brian Richardson, Director of Merchandising, Cook'sBrian Richardson: Director of Merchandising
Brian has been with Cook’s for 9 years managing the Merchandising function at Cook’s.  He’s got his hands in everything related to products, from sourcing new products to overseeing product development activities for new Cook’s Brand products, to pricing and inventory management.  His background includes work at True Value company and some time at Solo Cup.  If you’ve been to the ACFSA show, you may have met Brian.  He attends the trade shows and makes customer visits so that he can meet and talk with our customers directly to get feedback on the products in our catalog, what they like, what they need – and when he’s on a site visit in a correctional kitchen, to see what it is you’re really using and how you’re using it.

 Claudia Santangelo, Product Merchant, Cook'sClaudia Santangelo: Product Merchant
Claudia started with Cook’s in February of 2012.  She works with Brian and the Merchandising team to manage our 300 plus vendors.  Claudia is directly involved in evaluating manufacturers to see if their product lines are a good match to our customers needs. She also spends a great deal of time learning what’s new in the marketplace and finding products for our catalog.  To say that Claudia is ‘intimate’ with the Correctional Buyers Guide is an understatement.  She reviews all the products, the copy, the specs – you name it, to make sure we’ve got the right information so that our customers know what they’re getting and they can make great choices.  Being that she spends so much time working with our vendors, she has a great deal of industry knowledge.  The majority of Claudia’s career has been in the foodservice industry both on the manufacturer and dealer side.

Those are the first three members of our team – next week you’ll be introduced to Max Lecaros, Tim Saner, Janet St. Clair, John Yaeger & Jeff Breeden.  We’ll also get into some more correctional topics to keep things interesting!

We’re blogging at Cook’s Correctional!

If you know Cook’s, you probably know us for our expertise in foodservice equipment and operations and in all things related to the jail and prison kitchen. You also know us for innovative product design and our diverse selection of products, both proprietary and from the best foodservice equipment vendors in the industry. And you know us for great customer service and our unmatched knowledge of the correctional kitchen environment.

Now know us as an online destination for correctional and foodservice industry-related content.

We’ll be here blogging at least twice a week, and we hope you’ll join us for a good read and even comment on what we post. We’ll talk about a wide variety of topics, ranging from the serious to the silly. We’ll talk about products. We’ll talk about tips and tricks for use in the kitchen. We’ll write stories from correctional kitchen operators about the things they are doing that we think are worth sharing, and on occasion, we’ll take a look at what someone is doing in their little corner of the industry that we think is pretty darn cool.

Be sure to check back on Friday to meet our contributing editors — you’ll be seeing posts from several different people at Cook’s, offering you a variety of different points of view and topics. We’ve also got posts lined up on some of our coolest 2014 new product introductions, one showing you how to use our digital catalog that’s posted on Cook’s Correctional, some ordering tips from our customer service manager that will help you get your package delivered correctly and great guide to walk you through the first steps of making a dish machine decision.

Please bookmark us and then jump in and join the discussion. Leave a comment or ask a question. And you can always e-mail me at

Thanks for reading!