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Chef Erick Williams Keeps Southern Cuisine Alive in Chicago’s Hyde Park Neighborhood

Chef Erick Williams Keeps Southern Cuisine Alive in Chicago’s Hyde Park Neighborhood

Photo Credit: Gary Adcock, Studio 37

“We think that our biggest investment is in humanity,” says Erick Williams of Chicago’s award-winning Virtue Restaurant. “And that goes beyond the land. If the land is whole and the people are hurting, what good does that do any of us?

“It’s a multi-prong approach that we take. We take it with every guest. We take it with every delivery driver that walks through the door. We take it with every person who we recruit on our team. Sustainability for us is a full package.”

During this especially engaging Restaurant Inc. episode, chef Williams discusses how the secret to the restaurant’s success goes far beyond the modern Southern fare he creates. It’s about respecting the people who work hard to make his vision a reality. He also talks about how Virtue has been instrumental in placing Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood on the culinary map, First Lady Michelle Obama’s favorite dish and more.

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Virtue Restaurant’s Fried Green Tomatos

  • 4 large green tomatoes (firm sliced ¼ -1/2 inch thick)
  • Vegetable oil (enough to fill pan ¼ inch deep)
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp black pepper 

Pour buttermilk into a shallow dish. Slice tomatoes, add to buttermilk and set aside. Heat oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Mix cornmeal, salt, pepper and place in a shallow dish. Dredge it in cornmeal mixture. Fry each slice in oil until browned, one minute to two minutes. Turn and cook the other side until brown. Remove and place on a paper towel-lined dish.

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