Executive Chef Chris Poplin: “Wowing” the Customers

Posted by Lynda Bassett +

The first ingredients that Chef Chris Poplin needs to start his day are caffeine, loud music and a few quick bites of oatmeal and eggs. Then it’s onto the business of the day.

That business is located at the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park, in Northfield, OH. As Executive Chef, he creates “eclectic food that people know and enhancing it to exceed our customers’ expectations,” said Poplin.

Focus on Quality
Over the years, Chef Poplin has had the opportunity to work for many great Chefs in his career. No matter who the Chef was, they had one thing in common. “They showed me the importance of working with good, basic ingredients, and focusing on quality over quantity. Never compromise on quality,” he said.

The laser-like focus on quality is something he practices to this day. He demands it of himself, and he demands it from his staff. “I have high standards, and it’s important that my staff know what is acceptable and what is not. I try to reward the positive and share in the success of the restaurant with my staff,” said Poplin.

That positive attitude permeates the kitchen, and it makes it easy for everyone on the team to strive for the best. “When we’re out to enjoy ourselves, we work hard,” said Poplin.

But it takes time and energy to get the right team in place in the back of the house. “You’ve got to be smart enough to hire the right people. You can only go as far as your staff will allow,” said Poplin.

As with any restaurant, consistency is the name of the game. “The challenging part of my job is what I believe is the single most difficult challenge in most restaurants, and that is remaining consistent,” he said. “Anyone can serve a great meal once, but to continue to do it day after day takes practice, patience and proper training of the staff,” he said. 

Advice to Aspiring Chefs
Being a Chef is not for the faint of heart, said Poplin. “Make sure that you’re prepared for what’s ahead of you. It requires long hours, holidays, and an understanding family,” he said.

But all that hard work is worth it in the end. “The best part of the job is when people are thoroughly enjoyed by the experience of dining in your restaurant,” he said.  “Some people are just there to eat, while some are there to really dine and enjoy— there’s a difference,” he said. “Whenever you can ‘wow’ those guests, I’d say that’s the best feeling in the world,” said Poplin.  

Poplin is constantly thinking about how to ‘wow’ his guests, whether it’s with a new soup or sauce (made with his favorite tool, the immersion blender), or coming up with ways to add more health-conscious items to his menu. “There is a big farm to table movement and lots of demand for sustainability, which are both very important,” he said.

When he’s not at the restaurant, Poplin enjoys spending time with his my family, playing golf and following professional sports. He also dreams about his perfect ‘death row’ meal. “I would have Alaskan king crab legs, charbroiled NY steak (cooked medium rare), grilled asparagus with béarnaise, Sam Adams beer, and finish with mint and chip ice cream for dessert,” he said.

In the meantime, he’s focusing on the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park and looking toward to the future. “The future looks bright,” said Poplin.

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