No one likes meat that is boring and dull. But perhaps those who like it least are trained chefs. That’s why Peter Christenson, founder of Plump Chef and executive chef at Dellwood Country Club, started creating his hand-blended seasonings to enhance the dishes he makes for his hungry customers. And what started out as a practical approach to cooking at work has grown into a niche side business that can spice up the dishes you make in your own kitchen.
Christenson’s food story began early. Starting as a dishwasher at the age of 15, Christenson worked his way up from there, gleaning information and techniques from the cooks and chefs in the bustling kitchens. He was educated in the classical style at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Christenson, serving as executive chef at Dellwood Country Club for a little over a year, has cooked in many different settings, such as at other country clubs, off-site catering and on food trucks. He also worked at a hotel and taught monthly cooking classes at Woolley’s Restaurant at the Embassy Suites hotel.
Although he always created his own seasonings for the dishes he made at work, Christenson didn’t get the idea to sell them until he started giving them away as samples at the monthly cooking class. Over time, these little “take-home baggies,” full of high quality spices, grew in popularity. More and more people started asking where they could buy them. This is when the light switched on. Christenson’s wife, Kelsey, purchased bottles and labels, and in 2008, Plump Chef was born.
Christenson uses Plump Chef’s flavoring on some of the dishes offered at Dellwood. He uses the Original Shake to flavor all of the club’s hamburgers and steaks. He infuses the menu’s spicy beef tips, the delicious Diablo Bites, with his Diablo Shake. When the coveted Copper River salmon is in season, Christenson seasons the fish with the bright citrus flavors in the Sunshine Shake. For those who crave a smokier flavor, the chef enhances the club’s rib-eye and flat-iron steaks with the Cowboy Rub.
“As a chef, you always want to set yourself apart with great flavors,” Christenson says. “One of the ways I do it is the spice blends I have.” The blends, made from ingredients that he uses in his professional kitchen, are from Woodland Foods based in Illinois; there are nine Plump Chef blends in the lineup, but Christenson will make custom blends, too.
Looking through Plump Chef’s inventory, you’ll find everything from the Original Shake to a Haitian Love Rub to a Salt-Free Shake for those who can’t do salt but still want a little zing in their food. There are spices for the hunting and fishing enthusiast for seasoning wild game. “To see that people really like it and they come back for more validates what I believe is a good quality product,” Christenson says.
The best-selling shake by far is the Blackening Shake, with a Cajun blackened flavor; it’s spicy, but not too spicy. People typically use it to make blackened chicken or blackened fish. Currently, the chef is experimenting with a French Fry Shake. Of all his spice blends, the Original Shake still remains a favorite: “It’s my go-to whenever I am going to grill a whole chicken, burgers, pork chops, you name it.”
To spice up your meats at home, you can find Plump Chef seasonings at Kowalski’s, metro meat shops and online.