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Food Theory Thursday

December 5, 2018

Badass Boards: Kaleb’s works of art.

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An end grain cutting board is the Cadillac of cutting boards. Both functionally and aesthetically, they are tough to beat. Let's talk a little bit about why an end grain board is so special. Think of your cutting board like a paint brush with the wood grain being the bristles of the brush. Lay that paint brush horizontally, and you have a long grain cutting board. Your knife is going to rest on top of the bristles. Functional, but quite hard on your knife. Additionally, these are not quite as durable as an end grain board as scratches will add up over time and pieces of wood fiber can even eventually be dislodged.Image result for end grain vs edge grain Now take the paint brush and hold it vertically and you have an end grain cutting board. Your knife can slide easily into the bristles. In fact the bristles actually make a cushion for your knife. And after each cut the bristles or wood fibers can spring back into position. Scratches are less likely and less visible and the board itself much more durable.Image result for end grain vs edge grain So, if an end grain board is so much better, why don't we see them everywhere? The biggest reason is simply due to the additional work that is involved in making an end grain cutting board, which then makes them quite a bit more expensive. For a long grain board, you can simply glue strips of wood together and voila! Image result for edge grain However, to expose the end grain, you have to then take the completed board and cut it into strips, flip them on end and glue the whole thing back together before sanding for hours and hours to achieve a flat smooth board. So, if an end grain board is definitely the way to go...are all end grain boards created equal? Certainly not. The biggest thing to look for in selecting your new board is the type of wood. We don't want a soft wood or a wood that has an open or loose grain structure. We also don't want an overly oily wood. We are after a nice hardwood with a dense, closed grain pattern. But some woods have a VERY dense grain structure. So much so that even the end grain is still quite hard on your knives. Imagine our paint brush standing on end but being squeezed so tightly the knife still can't be cushioned because the bristles are so tight. Pine and cedar are cheap and easy to work with, but just too soft and open grained. Teak, ebony, bubinga, acacia, hickory and others will make a stunningly beautiful board, however they are just too densely grained. Cocobolo, goncalo alves, purpleheart and other tropical hardwoods are some of favorite woods for certain projects, but just too oily for a cutting board. My top choice for an end grain board is hard maple, often referred to as rock maple. This is the perfect balance of dense grain, that is hard and durable and actually still quite affordable. Now, some of the most beautiful boards out there combine different lumbers to create spectacular contrasting patterns, so a great choice for secondary woods could be walnut, oak, cherry, or others. I decided to make these for my holiday gifts. They were a lot of work but totally worth it! Check out what I have been up to all year!  
Tips for care of your end grain board
  • Utah air is awfully dry and cause wood boards to split and crack. Conditioning the wood will prevent cracking and keep it looking beautiful. A good rule of thumb for treating a new board is to oil once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, and once a year for life. You should also treat wood after washing with heavy soap or anytime the wood looks dry.
  • There are various conditioning oils, creams, waxes and blends available specifically for wood boards. However, the simplest solution is as good as any: mineral oil. Avoid vegetable oils and any others that aren't perpetually stables since they will eventually go rancid and make your board stink.
  • Keep your cutting board on the counter top where it can breath. Avoid storage in places where airflow is stifled and where moisture can get trapped.
  • Always wash your board by hand with soft materials. Only use soap when necessary. Never wash in the dishwasher, and never leave the board to to soak submerged.

October 1, 2018

Knife Essentials: How to pick your knives for your home.

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Our passion for hospitality isn’t limited to large special events. We love to cook and serve fabulous food at home too. And we love to help others step up their home cooking game!

Does the quality of your knives really matter?

Yes. A lot. Good knives are safer and are more likely to avoid mishaps. They’re faster and will save you time. They are also a key gateway to better overall results in the kitchen. Admittedly, as with most things, there comes a point where extra spend doesn’t buy much more function or longevity. But there is still a big difference between cheap knives (that won’t perform and won’t last) and quality knives (that will). If you’re serious about cooking, it’s worth making an investment in your knives.  

What knives should you own?

If you visit a cutlery shop or start perusing options online, you’ll be quickly overwhelmed with options and could quickly spend a lot of green. Our recommendation is to start with the basics. With just a few select knives, you’ll be ideally prepared for nearly all kitchen tasks (and still completely serviceable for the remainder too).

It’s much better to have 3-5 great quality knives that will see a lot of use, versus a 18 piece block set of mediocre knives (most of which will just take up space). If you cook a lot and want to add more knives to your arsenal, you can add these one by one over time as your desire and budget allow.

 

We recommend making your initial investment on the following key knives. If you can afford to invest in 5 knives at once, excellent. If you can’t, start with the first three listed here and add the others later.

  • Chef’s Knife. Aka Cook’s Knife, this is the most commonly used knife in the kitchen. Features a wide symmetrical blade that tapers to a point. Ideal for a wide array of chores including, chopping, slicing, mincing, etc. Sizes range from 6” -14”. We find that 8” or 10” are most popular / easy to use.

     

  • Serrated Bread Knife. Straight or slightly curved blade, often with a single sided edge. Some bread knives are offset which help avoid knuckles hitting the counter or cutting board. Not limited to bread, these knives are also great for slicing fruits with a hard rind and/or soft interior. Sizes typically range from 6” - 12” and we prefer them 9” or more.

        

  • Paring Knife. Probably second only to the Chef’s Knife in versatility and frequency of use. Perfect for peeling, julienning, garnishing, and other tasks that require delicate precision. For your first and go-to paring knife, opt for a spear point or sheep’s foot style (put off buying a bird’s beak / tourne style until later or never). Sizes will vary, but will be shorter. We prefer 3-4”.

  • Utility Knife. Found with both straight and scalloped edges, utility knives could be considered filling the gaps and overlapping the uses between your chef’s knife, paring knife, and slicing knife. Excellent for slicing soft fruits and vegetables. Sizes typically range from 5-8”, with 6” being very common and our recommendation.

           

  • Carving / Slicing Knife. While perhaps not used as much as the other core knives listed above, when you have a large whole muscle meat (roasts, whole poultry, hams, etc.) to serve, these are invaluable. Blades are typically straight edged and relatively thin. Granton edges (hollow ground sections along the side of blade to create space and reduce drag) are common and popular on carving knives. Sizes vary and shorter lengths (9” - 12”) often have pointed tips while longer lengths (14”+) often have rounded tips.

           

   

Other useful knives.

For many cooks - especially home cooks, the knives already listed will suffice for nearly all applications and needs. That said, there are lots of other styles out there that can be helpful (or just fun to collect). Options include:

  • Boning Knife. Just like sounds - ideally suited for removing meat from bone, skin, and other tissues. Boning knives are generally either classified as flexible (great for staying close to bones and getting into odd shaped areas) or stiff (great for making straight cuts and jointing).

  • Santuko, Nikiri, Gyoto, and other Japanese style knives. Increasingly popular in Western kitchens, these knives are often alternatives to the traditional Chef’s Knife or Utility Knife. Typically these are single edged, and ground to a narrower angle than European style knives. The narrow angle is sharper and slices better with more precision, but requires more maintenance. Unique blade styles offer different ergonomics and function which many chefs prefer for certain tasks - especially very thin slicing and chopping.

  • Cleaver. Not common in home kitchens, since these are thick and heavy knives designed to chop through thick meat and bone when butchering. Also great for opening lobster shells and other similar tasks.

  • Cimeter. The staple knife for professional butchers, but not commonly used in home kitchens.  

What to look for and consider when buying knives.

 
  • Knife Anatomy

 

  • Stamped vs forged construction? Stamped knives are made by cutting the knife shape out of a flat sheet of metal (like a cookie cutter). Forged knives are made by hammering heated bar metal into the knife shape. Once the basic shape is formed, both types of knives will be ground and honed to create the cutting edge. Stamped knives are typically thinner, lighter, lacking a bolster, and are generally less expensive. Forged knives are thicker, heavier, stronger, well balanced, and are usually more expensive to purchase. For most long lasting knives, we prefer forged construction. That said, for some knives (a long granton edge meat slicer or a heavily used and often replaced butcher cimeter, we opt for stamped).

  • Type of steel? Nearly all high quality knives are made from some type of high carbon stainless steel designed to strike a balance between hardness and durability, ease of sharpening and honing, resisting stain and decay, and cost. German steel (often 420 or 440 C stainless) is common for European style knives. It’s excellent at resisting corrosion, and very easy to sharpen. German steel is durable and holds an edge well, though not as well as some harder steels. Japanese steel (often VG-10 or San Mai) is common in Asian style knives and is increasingly seen in European styles as well. This layered laminated steel is exceptionally hard which offers excellent sharpness and edge retention. They can be more difficult to sharpen well and sometimes offer slightly less corrosion resistance compared to the German steel. As noted earlier, these steels are all striking a balance between different factors. The best steel for you depends on your personal preferences and priorities.

  • Handles? Wood handles are not only very comfortable, we think they’re the prettiest options. They can also last longer than the blade of the knife, but require more maintenance than other options. Stainless handles are popular for the seamless styling and the ease of maintenance. The notable drawback is than many stainless handles can become slippery when wet, though many steel knives have textured stainless handles to mitigate this. Synthetic resin and Polyoxyethylene (POM) handles are very common on riveted full tang knives. They’re very durable, easy to clean, and although simple, very nice looking. Plastic, nylon, and rubber handles are popular in commercial kitchens because they are affordable, easy to clean, and fairly durable. We don’t find them nearly as attractive as other options though and many home chefs want something with more aesthetic appeal.

  • Edge type? Straight edge (aka flat ground) is the most common and applicable. Granton edge (see the note on carving knives above) reduce drag and are very nice in certain situations. Serrated edges (aka scalloped) have small “teeth” which help to penetrate a tough exterior without pressure that might harm a soft inside. Hollow ground edges are are concave to create a very thin and narrow cutting edge. They are very sharp and wonderful for delicate tasks, but not recommended for heavy duty chores.

  • Edge angle? European style knives usually have a 20 degree angle which is great for edge retention and durability. Asian style knives have usually have a 15 degree (sometimes even narrower) which is excellent for sharp precision slicing.

  • Full Tang design? Full tang refers to the entire knife being a single piece of metal end to end. The core of the handle is simply an extension of the blade. This can easily be seen on knives where the core of the handle is the same metal as the blade and the handle material is double or triple riveted to the metal. In general we prefer full tang knives because they are sturdier, longer lasting, and more reliable. If you’ve ever had a partial tang knife break apart at the handle during use, you know how frustrating and dangerous it can be. Heavy full tang construction is particularly important for knives that see a lot of heavy use and cutting. For lightweight knives that will be used primarily for delicate tasks, this is less crucial.

 

Caring for your knives.

 
  • Always hand wash with warm soapy water after use, rinse well, and dry thoroughly immediately. Avoid leaving knives dirty for long, machine washing, and extended air drying.

  • Hone your knives regularly - practically with every use.

  • Keep your knives sharpened. Frequency of sharpening will depend on the steel, type of use, and frequency of use. See our separate post about knife sharpening for more info and tips.

  • Store your knives safely and properly. Though popular and convenient, we do not recommend traditional knife blocks. These take up a lot of counter space, tend to dull your knives, can collect hard to remove particles, and often encourage buyers to purchase more knives than they need. We much prefer a magnetic wall strip which saves space, offers easy access, is easy to clean, and when used correctly, doesn’t dull the blade. There are also some great in drawer solutions that can protect your knives. If you need to frequently travel with your knives (like us), a nice bag or roll with a soft interior is great. Individual blade protectors can also be well worth getting depending on how you store your knives.

 

Happy cooking!

 

May 16, 2013

UV Magazine Restaurant Review | Food Theory Thursday

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review As some of you may know, our very own Mary Crafts-Homer writes fabulous restaurant reviews for each issue of UV Magazine!  From high end eateries to down home comfort classics, she reviews them all.  And you know you can count on Mary to let you know exactly which are the best bites!  In the current issue, she reviewed The Old Towne Grill, which is part of the historic Center Street area in Provo.  I don't know about you, but if the cheesecake photo (above) is any indication, this place is AMAZING!  If you want to read more about what she thought, pick up a copy of UV Magazine today.  Not only is Mary's awesome review inside, but lots of other great stuff!  Happy reading everyone! Check out more on Salt Lake City, Park City, and Utah County catering at www.culinarycrafts.com!

May 2, 2013

Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Caterer | Food Theory Thursday

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Rayna2 Even though we are almost into the full swing of wedding season, some of you still may be searching for stellar vendors to make your event AMAZING!  With that in mind, I thought this ever-so-helpful advice from our very own Mary Crafts-Homer would be perfect for anyone looking for a top-notch caterer.  These "Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Caterer" are a good way to find out which caterer will fit your taste, style, and budget - so you can sit back and relax, knowing that you've picked the best fit for you and your wedding!  Check it out! 1.  Let your caterer know your budget up front and ask what would be the best fit for your event based on that budget.  You may want a 7 course plated dinner for all your guests but that definitely adds major cost to your bottom line – so unless your budget allows for it, let the caterer suggest other options – such as a gorgeous dinner buffet with similar food options to cut your cost.  If the caterer won’t work with your budget or tries to upsell you an event you aren’t sure you can afford – be wary.  Also make sure that you trust your caterer enough to give you ideas you wouldn’t have thought of yourself, but also make sure that they keep your vision at the forefront.  It’s your day, after all! CATIE6 2.  Ask if there are any additional costs for labor, alcohol service, gratuity, etc. that will be added into your final total.  This is especially important if you have a tight budget and do not want to be surprised with the final bill the week before your wedding.  Most caterers will outline any additional labor costs, extra staff costs, alcohol provider’s costs, and also suggest a gratuity based on your cost.  Make sure you are aware of the costs involved and plan for your budget and there will be no surprises at the end.  Also, remember the gratuity is based on the service provided.  So your gratuity should reflect your overall happiness with the event and service. CATIE2 3.  Ask if the food is prepared on-site or in a kitchen off-site.  Culinary Crafts prides itself on preparing their food at the event site (which is one of the reasons it is SO delicious and fresh).  This allows you to plan for how much space the caterer will need to prepare the food and plan a layout where they will have their “back of house” or prep area.  You don’t want to be figuring this out on the day of – you’ll have more important things to focus on! ACE8 4.  Ask if they are a full service caterer or not.  Meaning, are they just going to show up and make sure the food is taken care of?  Or are they going to make sure that the layout is the way that you (the client) have envisioned?  And that the cake shows up?  Or that the rental company has delivered the chairs and linens you ordered?  Culinary Crafts will make sure all facets of the event are taken care of from layout to set up to execution.  Of course, a wedding planner would do this as well – so if you have hired one, Culinary Crafts will work closely with the planner to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.  One less thing to worry about on your wedding day! ChanningHancock9 5.  Ask other wedding vendors and past client about their experience with the caterer you are considering hiring.  No matter what the reputation is of the caterer, you should ask vendors and clients you know and trust about their experience with the caterer to find out if they would recommend them or had any problems with them.  It’s always important to know who you are doing business with.  It’ll make sure you are happy in the long run! Happy planning everyone! Check out more Salt Lake City, Park City, and Utah County catering at www.culinarycrafts.com! Photo by Logan Walker, A Pepper Nix Photographer

April 11, 2013

Bon Appetit’s Food Trends for 2013 | Food Theory Thursday

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Recently, Bon Appetit honed their culinary prowess to predict the top 25 emerging food trends for 2013 - which as you may guess is totally up my alley!  While I am truly loving the diversity on the list, I gotta say my fav one was #23: Blond(ie) is the new Brown(ie)!  Now, please understand that I am a die-hard choco-phile and I will never let my brownie love go, but I am truly excited to see blondies make a resurgence.  Especially since I know Culinary Crafts's pastry chef, Jocelyn Ball, has a kick butt recipe for Salted Caramel Blondies - yes I said salted caramel blondies - that are heavenly!  I am thrilled to see blondies make a comeback - and will happily indulge in them throughout their rise in 2013!  Happy eating everyone! Check out more Salt Lake, Park City, and Utah County catering at www.culinarycrafts.com! Photo via Logan Walker, A Pepper Nix Photographer

April 4, 2013

Salt Lake Bride & Groom Love! | Food Theory Thursday

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Reposted, with permission, from Salt Lake/Park City Bride & Groom Magazine

And the Award Goes To: Culinary Crafts Wins Big at the CATIE Awards

Utah's own awarded Caterer of the Year by the International Caterers Association
The film industry has the Academy Awards, the music industry has the Grammys, the television industry has the Emmys, and the event catering industry has the CATIES. The Catered Arts Through Innovative Excellence Awards are held annually to “recognize achievement of exemplary food production at an event”–in other words, food presentation that’s as pleasing to the palate as it is to your other four senses. At this year’s CATIE Awards, Utah-based Culinary Crafts cleaned up big time. And we mean BIG time. Culinary Crafts was awarded Caterer of the Year by the International Caterers Association. Yup, our very own Culinary Crafts snatched up top honors at the event, beating out catering companies from as far away as South Africa. And that’s not all: Culinary Crafts also won the ACE award at this year’s Catersource conference, one of only five awards given out each year (four in the U.S. and one internationally). No caterer has ever won both of these awards, let alone a caterer from Utah.   ICA Award Mary, Kaleb, Ryan We caught up with Mary Crafts, CEO and president of Culinary Crafts, to get her reaction on the big win: I was dumbfounded when we won the Caterer of the Year award! I had my shoes off at our banquet table because I was not expecting to win–when they announced our name I thought, “I have to get my shoes on!” I was so shocked, I could hardly speak. It was amazing to be there and to win these awards. My first thought (after thinking about my shoes) was, “Text the team!” Everything we do is a team effort. These awards are for the many people at Culinary Crafts who work every day to bring excellence to the company and make sure we’re the best around. We’ve always championed the incredible talents of stellar local vendors like Mary Crafts and the Culinary Crafts team, and we’re thrilled to hear the international community is taking notice now, too! Congratulations Mary, Ryan, Kaleb, and the entire Culinary Crafts family! Mary, we’re popping a bottle of champagne can of Diet Coke in your honor! Thank you to Salt Lake/Park City Bride & Groom Magazine for the shout out and again!  You are the best!  We are just so thrilled to be able to bring this prestigious honor home to Utah and thank our team for being the amazing people that brought us here today! Check out more on Salt Lake City, Park City, and Utah County catering on www.culinarycrafts.com!

March 21, 2013

Check Us Out! | Food Theory Thursday

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Have you checked out the Culinary Crafts website lately?  You definitely should because we are constantly updating, adding, and posting new events, photos, and all around good stuff!!!  You can sign up to receive the recipe of the month and newsletters from Miss Mary Crafts-Homer, check out the best of the best events, find out more about our venue The Tasting Room, meet our super talented staff, and just take in all of the glorious food and decor that we have to offer!  Not to mention we have stunning photo tours for all of the best venues in the valley and we've even added new event videos to our wedding and corporate galleries to boot!  If you haven't gone to www.culinarycrafts.com in awhile, you are missing out!  Happy surfing everyone! Check out more on our website www.culinarycrafts.com!

March 7, 2013

Culinary Crafts on 100 Magnificent Sites for Chefs! | Food Theory Thursday

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Well, we are just tickled pink this week.  Not only are we nominated for the ACE award, but Culinary Crafts's website has been added to the "100 Magnificent Sites for Chefs" list!  This list compiles sites that they deem all "aspiring chefs would do well to follow, since they're at the top of the culinary heap or moving fast in that direction."  From celebrity chefs, to regional cuisine, tofood stylists, and even culinary organizations and magazines, this is a list we feel just thrilled to be a part of!  Take a look - and thank you so much for the accolades!!! Check out more Utah County, Salt Lake City, and Park City catering at www.culinarycrafts.com!  

February 21, 2013

Finca Restaurant Review | Food Theory Thursday

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Recently, our Mary Crafts-Homer tried out a new restaurant from the culinary powerhouse that's behind Pago called Finca.  We love Pago's farm to table initiative, commitment to green living and reclaimed furnishings, not to mention the creative and innovative food offerings they are always coming up with!  Lucky for us, the people of Pago have opened another divine place with the same principles!   Finca is sure to become a foodie haven and culinary hot spot and we simply LOVE it!  We enjoy all of the small plates and tapas for sure.  Plus, Mary has started eating a modified vegan diet and was super stoked to see that there were so many options for her and her dining companion!  The attention to taste and detail is truly welcome to any one searching for a mouthwatering meal.  From the Ensalada de Remolacha (a beet salad with pickled strawberries, house ricotta, and greens), to the Gambas tapas (rock shrimp with garlic oil, lemon, and chile), to the Cordero de Asador (grilled local lamb belly with cider braised apples and squash puree) I think I would end up ordering the entire menu and rolling out of there in a heavenly food coma.  SO YUMMY! As if that weren't enough to peak your interest, I have also heard about their attention to high end mixology and spirits, which sounds like a welcome addition to Salt Lake City - not to mention Finca was awarded Best Mixologist and Best Wine List by Salt Lake Magazine recently, so you know they got something great going.  The are really trying to bring their cocktail servings up a notch and have a truly innovative cocktail menu - not to mention they make their own tonics in house, can carbonate any cocktail per request, and have more infusions than you can shake a stick at!  Another great thing about Finca (and Pago) is that they both employ a cruvinet wine system that basically keeps the wine in a controlled environment that maintains the freshness of the bottle as well as if it were just opened!  This allows both Pago and Finca to be able to serve a greater selection of wines by the glass, which is great for anyone interested in pairing lots of wines with different dishes - or for a connoisseur who wants a great glass of wine every time!  So, if you are looking for something new and innovative, or would just like to treat yourself to a fine night out, DEFINITELY check out Finca!  Happy eating everyone! Check out more Park City, Utah County, and Salt Lake City catering at www.culinarycrafts.com! Logo, restaurant interior, and Farm to Table Logo from www.fincaslc.com.  Tostada image from Best of Salt Lake Restaurants and Hamburger image from Future RD Eats

February 14, 2013

Rustic Ranch Wedding Part 3 | Food Theory Thursday

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Happy Valentine's Day everyone!  Today, we have Part 3 of our Rustic Ranch beauty of a wedding and I just know you are going to love it!  Today, we are focusing on the food and drink, which I must say, is ALWAYS my favorite part of the day!  I warn you, viewing these images might leave you hungry!  Check it out! This canoe of vintage style soda bottles was one of my favorite details of the year.  Whimsical and functional, guests DEFINITELY loved this special touch. We also appreciated their nod to Utah's very own High West Distillery!  The couple chose to make their signature High West Lemonade their signature cocktail - which is DELCIOUS, I must say! The couple chose so many appetizers to really get their guests appetites going!  Sweet Potato Fries with Utah Fry Sauce, Mini Cordon Bleus, Tortilla Chips with Avocado and Corn Salsa, Utah Smoked Trout Crostini, and Chipotle Shrimp with Cumin Spiced Cream were some of the offerings.  So delicious! The bride chose to create a family style menu for her guests which is always a great idea with these long tables which allow people to pass and share the dishes easily!  Definitely one of our favorite dining style for sure! Candy buffets are always a fun addition, especially when the couple picks their favorites to share! Not only did the couple create a fun candy station, but they had a s'mores station, and bundt cakes instead of traditional wedding cake for their guests to enjoy!

This event was so much fun and we just LOVED all of the BEAUTIFUL details, the GORGEOUS venue, and FANTASTIC food that came together to make this wedding one of a kind - definitely not one to be forgotten any time soon!  Thank you so much to Nikki and Mike for letting us share in this extraordinary day!  Happy planning everyone!

Check out more on Park City, Salt Lake City, and Utah County catering at www.culinarycrafts.com! Photos by Logan Walker, A Pepper Nix Photographer

19x winner Utah’s Best of State

15x Best of State Caterer

3x Best of the Best / Hospitality

1x Entrepreneur of the Year