Monday, March 23, 2015

Big Bern's American Grill at 978 Toa Payoh North #02-01 Stall 9 - The Co-Founders Part 2

Menu Planning
This is currently handled by Bernie Utchenik personally. Bernie Utchenik takes the time to listen to feedback from customers concerning their peculiar tastes, likes & dislikes and he is open to tweaking his recipes accordingly. One thing Bernie Utchenik has noticed - the local customers here in Singapore has slightly different palates, tastes & preferences from his customers in the US. So he has staples & evergreen items on the Big Bern's American Grill menu, with occasional special items he launches to commemorate special occasions such as Thanksgiving, National Day, etc. To date the total items on menu includes 15 to 20 items. 

Big Bern's American Grill Menu 2015 
To date the menu includes following categories :
  • 2 soups include - homemade Louisiana Chicken Gumbo, homemade Shiitake Mushroom Cream.
  • Appetisers include - Chicken Wings, Cheese Fries, Spicy Fries, Hot Spicy Fries, Whoop Ass Cheese Fries, 
  • Salads include - Caesar Salad, Caesar with Chicken, Caesar with Fried Fish, Caesar with Grilled Fish, 
  • Mains include - Cajun Chicken, Beef Burger, Louisiana-style Po Boys, Cheese steak, Leg of Lamb, Fried Shrimp, Fried Oysters, Fried Soft shelled Crabs, Steaks, New Zealand Ribeye, Australian very well-marbled sirloin, New York Striploin. 
  • Dessert - Bread pudding with vanilla sauce. 
Kitchen Staff 
Currently Bernie has total 3 kitchen staff including himself, there is Zaid, & Zee his wife who is really good at cooking the seafood dishes. He is bringing in some alcohol & wine to use in his recipes but he may consider selling it when the time is appropriate. 

Bernie Utchenik empowers his staff so they are very resourceful & multi-tasks whenever they can. Though he adopts a manual for the recipes he uses at Big Bern's American Grill, Bernie Utchenik still believes a good chef should know his ingredients & the uses of these ingredients well enough to appreciate how they interact with each other to produce the desired flavors. For new recipes Bernie usually demonstrates how to cook it & his staff simply learns on the job.
Central Kitchen 
Bernie Utchenik rents two stalls here at 978 Toa Payoh North Food Centre, one of which he uses as a Central kitchen where he prepares all the sauces, dressings, marinates, meats, etc. This makes for more economic & convenient measure, instead of having a Central kitchen at industrial factories where it can bring up the cost of ingredients easily. 
Food Ingredients 
Most of the herbs & spices Bernie Utchenik uses in Big Bern's American Grill come from a Singaporean company based in Germany where most of the spices come from. Bernie likes it that the herbs & spices are packed in such a way they are very fresh when he uses them at the kitchen. As for fresh dill & pasta salad he gets them from the local vegetable supplier here. 

As for meats & poultry, Bernie Utchenik gets his frozen chicken breast, whole chicken & wings from Brazil, chilled beef from New Zealand & Australia, frozen lamb from Australia (via suppliers such as Euraco, Angliss, etc). The beef sirloins are frozen whilst the ribeyes come chilled. However since the sirloins are heavily marbled you cannot really differentiate whether it is frozen or chilled. Brazil currently supplies 90% of the world's poultry and the Brazilian government upholds a high standard when it comes to poultry farming. Bernie uses chicken from Brazil because of the country high standards to their poultry industry, with no reported outbreaks of Avian Flu.
As for seafood, Bernie Utchenik uses frozen White Basa fish (*Pangasius bocourti) a species of freshwater catfish from Vietnam - with a firm texture that is great for frying as well as grilling, and when coated with Japanese bread crumbs in the fish & chips makes for a delightful bite. 

He gets his oysters de-shelled, fresh frozen form & his Indonesian IQF prawns from a local supplier here. These days Bernie Utchenik gets his supplies 100% from local suppliers who are importers themselves, unlike those days in Botak Jones where on a larger scale he had direct dealings with overseas Australian suppliers. 

Bernie Utchenik gets his baguette 80% par-baked from Delifrance for his Louisiana Po-Boy, whilst his buns come baked fresh from Sunshine. Big Bern'a American Grill food are practically prepared ala minute. 
Slogan & Mission Statement 
Slogan : "Better Ingredients Better Food!"
Mission Statement :"To provide high quality restaurant food to the average Singaporean & treat all people as fellow human beings."
The key reason for Botak Jones (under the management of  Bernie & Zee) in winning the 2009 People's Choice Award was because they care about their customers & both believe in serving their customers well, & you can always find Zee & Bernie asking their customers if they like the taste & flavors of the food served to them. 
Uniquely Big Bern's American Grill 
  • All the food served at Big Bern's American Grill are original recipes by Bernie Utchenik. 
  • All processes, recipes are time-tested.
  • Tie up islandwide delivery with FoodPanda. 

Restaurant Facts 
Payment - by Cash, NETS only. 
Ordering - At the counter.
Catering - Not available. 
Takeaways - Yes, turkeys with bread dressing & cranberry sauce for holiday season, no minimum order required. 
Delivery Service - charged by FoodPanda
Good for large group gathering.
Promotion Programs tie up with Banks, etc- Not available now.
Loyalty Programs - Working on mechanics with a 5 to 8 % Discount with DBS Bank. Discount with SPH at 10%, Students (up to tertiary level) enjoy 10% off.
Restaurant is not halal certified yet but do not serve pork, lard. 
Merchandise on Sale - Not yet available. Plans in future for caps, T-Shirts, etc. Used to have that at Botak Jones. 
Target Market - Hungry people, with 80:20 for locals vs expats. 
Seating Capacity - 350 pax.
Signature Items 
Signature Items on Big Bern's American Grill include : Cajun Chicken, Steak, Cheese Steak Po Boy, Beef Burger. 

For his Beef Burger, Bernie Utchenik shares he uses really fresh minced beef meat made from ground chunk tender which he marinates himself using various herbs & spices & no chemicals no additives, natural flavor, made fresh daily into patties each weighing 150 grams. 

He uses premium quality onion powder & garlic powder which he orders from Germany in his burger recipes because they keep better & also because he was making 4 kg worth of beef patties so it makes sense to use the powder form. 

Only when he need to make small batches of beef patty will he use fresh onion & fresh garlic. There is a prescribed length of time need to knead & mix the beef patty to ensure it is well mixed. Before he makes them into beef patties, he does a taste test to ensure the flavor is just right. Bernie shared that for smaller outfits where he knows the clientele base & turnover for the beef burger he'd use the fresh onions & garlics. Otherwise fresh onions & garlics when they are chopped they start to age & much of the sugar, oils, acids & flavor in the onions & garlics do exude out & if they are not used on the same day they are made, the sugars, oils, acids & flavors  in the onions may run out & expire and you may end up with not so flavorful beef patty the following few days.  Hence the garlic & onion in the premium powder form are more stable & unlikely to subject to change & they hold the beef patty together better as his recipe does not use additives to hold the patty.
Celebrity Visits - Big Bern's American Grill does have it fair share of Celebrity visits. Bernie Utchenik shared that DJs from 91.3 do patronise his outlet pretty often. He even had visits from William Xavier, S F Seetoh from Makansutra.
Core influences 
Bernie Utchenik's core influences come from his American roots & heritage & his childhood memories & experience of American comfort food. Bernie was born in Detroit, USA. He had lived in Colorado for a while, travelled a lot, had also lived in New Orleans. He met Zee in the first restaurant where he worked at age 45 & when she was 35. Romance sparks flew & they grew to love each other more & they became soulmates for each other. Their relationship grew stronger through the years. This wonderful couple are happily married for 16 years. 
Plans for Big Bern's American Grill 
Bernie Utchenik might do a spin-off for the Louisiana Po Boys in form of takeaway bistro express. He is waiting for genuine interested wealthy investors to buy out 70% of the business to take it to another level. He realised that at age 52 he could do 16 hour workdays, but at 62 he became less active, and am now semi-retired. He is thinking of eventually relocating to other places such as Thailand, etc, for a slower atmosphere & pace of life after leaving the business to capable people to run. Bernie's dad was in the furniture business, whilst his mum was a homemaker. One day Bernie plans to publish his Recipe Book on American Comfort Food & is talking to some publishers to do just that. 

Big Bern's American Grill is located at:
978, Toa Payoh North,
#02-01, Stall 9, S(319001)
Tel : 67107362
Email :
Delivery at
Opening Hours :
Monday (Closed) 
Tuesday to Sunday 11.30am to 9pm 

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